Senate panel plans to introduce Keystone XL bill next week

Fri Jan 2, 2015 2:48pm EST
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON Jan 2 (Reuters) - The head of the Senate energy committee plans to introduce a bill next week to force approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the full chamber faces a battle in obtaining needed votes to overcome any veto by President Barack Obama.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and the new head of the energy committee, will introduce the bill next week after a hearing on TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project, her spokesman said.

"I mean in a matter of hours, or days," the energy committee will mark up the bill after the hearing on Wednesday and move it to the senate floor, spokesman Robert Dillon said.

A similar bill died in November, falling one vote short of the necessary 60 votes for the project that would bring some 800,000 barrels per day of Canada's oil sands petroleum to Nebraska en route to Gulf Coast refineries.

That measure was sponsored by senators Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, who lost in a runoff vote last month, and John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican.

Keystone supporters say they picked up votes for the project in November's midterm elections, including Republicans Shelley Moore Capito, from West Virginia, and Joni Ernst, from Iowa. Still, supporters likely lack the 67 votes needed to overcome any presidential veto.

At the senate energy panel hearing on Wednesday, the lawmakers will hear testimony from Keystone supporters from labor and industry and from a critic at the Center for American Progress think tank.

The path of the pipeline is being held up by a legal decision in Nebraska, where the state's top court is expected to rule early this year.

The pipeline has been pending for six years and the State Department is deciding whether the project is in the country's interest. Obama has said he will not approve the pipeline if it leads to a substantial increase in emissions linked to climate change. He has also said the project would do little to lower gasoline prices for U.S. consumers. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)