House to vote Jan. 9 on bill to approve Keystone XL project

The US House of Representatives majority has scheduled a Jan. 9 vote on a bill to approve the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), an incoming member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to introduce the measure when the 114th Congress convenes on Jan. 6.

The bill’s language is identical to one that incoming US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) introduced in December (OGJ Online, Jan. 2, 2015). That committee plans to hold a hearing to discuss Murkowski’s bill on Jan. 7, and to mark it up on Jan. 8.

“By passing this bill in the House and Senate with bipartisan votes, we can help provide the political muscle the president needs to finally approve this piece of critical transportation infrastructure, which will contribute thousands of jobs to the national economy and further our push toward national energy security,” Cramer said.

Four incoming House committee chairman—Fred Upton (Mich.) of Energy and Commerce, Bill Shuster (Pa.) of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Bishop (Utah) of Natural Resource, and Pete Sessions (Tex.) of Rules—cosponsored Cramer’s bill.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) have both said a bill authorizing construction of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed 1,179-mile crude oil pipeline from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., would be one of the first to reach US President Barack Obama’s desk in 2015.

Obama said earlier that he would not decide whether to approve a crossborder permit until Nebraska courts resolve a legal challenge to the project’s revised route across the state.

‘A bellwether’

US Sen. John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s No. 2 GOP member, said during a Jan. 4 interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” that Obama’s decision, once he receives a Keystone XL approval bill, will be a bellwether on whether he supports jobs and the US economy, or extremists who oppose the project.

US Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who also appeared on the program, said she believes the project has merit, but added that she doesn’t believe Congress should make the decision. “I think the president needs to make a decision,” she said. “A lot of us are frustrated that it has taken this long.”

Klobuchar said she does not expect many Senate Democrats to change their votes from Nov. 19, when then-Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mary L. Landrieu’s (D-La.) Keystone XL bill fell one vote short of adoption (OGJ Online, Nov. 19, 2014).

“The bigger issue here, though, is that this has become symbolic on both sides,” Klobuchar said. “We’re now the No. 1 producer of oil in the world. We’ve surpassed Saudi Arabia. [Gasoline] prices are down to something like two bucks a gallon in a lot of places. We're starting to move on climate change. And I think what I want to look for is the things where there's common ground.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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