UPDATE 2-U.S. senators push to force approval of Keystone pipeline

Thu May 1, 2014 2:52pm EDT
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(Adds Democrats on decision likely next week, background)

By Timothy Gardner and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON May 1 (Reuters) - In the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to breathe life into the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Senator John Hoeven re-introduced legislation on Thursday that would force congressional approval of the controversial project.

Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, said he has 55 co-sponsors for a bill that would take the power to approve the TransCanada Corp's pipeline out of the hands of the State Department and put it in the hands of Congress.

The tally includes all 45 Republican senators plus 11 Democrats in the 100-member Senate, but is short of the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.

The Keystone XL pipeline divides President Barack Obama's base between environmentalists, who say it would boost emissions linked to climate change, and union supporters who say it would create thousands of construction jobs.

It was unclear if the bill would even get a vote in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, or if any more Democrats could be persuaded to support it.

"I don't know if we will get 60," Hoeven said. "At this point I have a lot of maybes, but I don't know how many will end up voting with us."

In an abrupt turnaround on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was considering allowing a vote on Keystone in some form, if it could also help push through a bipartisan bill on energy efficiency.   Continued...