Republicans hope for "yes" on Keystone, prepare for "no"

Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:36am EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans who are urging President Barack Obama to approve the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline have signaled they will not give up on the issue if the White House says no.

After delaying the project, Obama has been compelled by Congress to decide by February 21 on whether to approve the project that would sharply boost the flow of oil from Canada'a oil sands.

Early work has begun on legislation that could make Obama take yet another look at the stalled pipeline should the project be rejected in February, Republican aides told Reuters.

The language could be included in legislation that will be needed to extend a payroll tax cut that expires on February 29.

TransCanada Corp's oil sands pipeline has put Obama in a political bind at the start of what is expected to be a difficult re-election campaign, and has become a useful tool for Republicans seeking to portray Obama as dithering on a project that they believe would create 20,000 jobs.

Environmental groups, an important part of Obama's political

base, have made defeating the line a top priority. They are concerned about the carbon emissions that come from processing the oil sands, and they argue the project will create fewer than 5,000 jobs.

The White House in November delayed its decision on Keystone to find a new route around environmentally sensitive lands in the Nebraska portion of its route. This effectively punted the decision beyond the November U.S. presidential election.   Continued...