UPDATE 1-US Senate budget plan embraces Keystone XL approval

Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:15pm EDT
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - The Senate easily passed on Friday a symbolic measure approving the Canada to Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move backers said showed strong support for a bill that would give Congress power to green light the project later in the year.

The amendment to the budget plan, sponsored by Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, passed 62 to 37.

It was symbolic because the budget is a blueprint that will not become law. But the measure was selected out of hundreds of others for a vote and was approved by a strong majority in the 100-seat chamber led by Democrats.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters earlier this month that the approval process for pipelines crossing international borders belongs with the State Department.

The State Department must finalize an environmental assessment. Then it will have 90 days to decide whether the project is in the country's interest.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline late this summer.

The pipeline permit has been pending for nearly five years and supporters of the project say they cannot risk more hold-ups.   Continued...