UPDATE 4-Keystone bill expected to pass U.S. House, but Senate in doubt

Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:21pm EST
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(Adds details on next week's vote in Senate, Senator Booker emerging as wild card)

By Timothy Gardner 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 a companion bill in the Senate may lack votes to pass next week.

The bills 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 would bring to an end years of jousting between supporters, who tout its job-creating potential, and environmentalists, who say Canada's extraction of oil sands would increase emissions linked to climate change.

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. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat and chair of the Senate energy panel, led the effort to approve the bill in her chamber, but it appeared on Thursday that she did not yet have enough votes for 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 Senate when the new Congress convenes in early 2015.

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