UPDATE 5-Keystone pipeline approval bills advance in U.S. Congress

Thu Nov 13, 2014 1:14am EST
 
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(Adds White House comment)

By Ros Krasny and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON Nov 12 (Reuters) - Legislation to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline began racing through the U.S. Congress on Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans appeared to be coming together in a challenge of President Barack Obama's oversight of the project.

In a series of rapid developments that unfolded just hours after Congress returned from a seven-week recess, there were indications the measure could pass and be sent to Obama sometime next week.

Republicans, victorious in the Nov. 4 congressional elections in which they campaigned heavily on the need for Keystone, have been pushing for approval of the project amid objections from some Democrats.

"It is time for America to become energy independent and that is impossible without the Keystone pipeline and other pipelines like it," Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana told reporters. Landrieu and Senator John Hoeven, a Republican of North Dakota, introduced the bill on May 1.

Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is fighting for her political life as she faces a runoff race early next month that will determine whether she can serve another six-year Senate term beginning in January.

Landrieu acknowledged to reporters that she had no commitment from Obama that he would sign a Keystone bill if Congress sends one to him.

Obama is currently in Asia, and a spokesman travelling with him said the White House took a dim view of the proposal.   Continued...