UPDATE 3-U.S. House set to vote on Keystone oil pipeline on Friday

Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:24pm EST
 
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(Adds Boxer, Carper, Hoeven comments)

By Richard Cowan and Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON Nov 13 (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline that will help transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, but the bill still faces hurdles to final passage.

The House planned to begin debating the bill, which is expected to pass that chamber, on Thursday. The legislation would circumvent the need for approval of TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project by the Obama administration, which has been pending for more than six years.

Final approval of the pipeline would bring to an end years of grappling between supporters, who tout its job-creating potential, and environmentalists, who oppose encouraging Canada's extraction of so-called dirty fuels.

It would also be a blow to President Barack Obama if members of his Democratic Party joined Republicans to approve the pipeline. It was not yet clear if Obama would use his veto, but he has threatened to veto Keystone legislation in the past.

The Senate could take up the bill next week, possibly on Tuesday. Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, led the effort to approve the bill in the Senate, but it appeared on Thursday that she did not yet have enough votes to be sure of passage.

The abrupt move to vote on the pipeline follows midterm elections last week that were disastrous for Democrats. Republicans maintained control of the House and will take over the majority in the Senate when the new Congress convenes in early 2015.

Landrieu herself faces a runoff election on Dec. 6. The House bill was introduced by Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, who is seeking to unseat her. The fact they both pushed the issue in Congress illustrates the importance of the pipeline in a state whose economy is highly dependent on drilling, shipping and refining oil.   Continued...