Keystone XL looms large as 114th Congress prepares to meet

The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee scheduled a hearing for Jan. 7 on legislation to approve the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project. Top Democrats on three US House committees, meanwhile, urged Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to use regular order and not bypass the committee process to consider similar legislation.

The Dec. 30 moves clearly signaled that the 114th Congress, with Republicans back in control of the Senate as well as the House, intends to move quickly on the issue. Both Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said that authorizing Keystone XL’s construction would be one of the first matters considered in 2015.

The Senate committee plans to discuss a bill introduced by its incoming chairwoman, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), in December. The measure would approve the revised application project which sponsor TransCanada Corp. filed with the US Department of State for a crossborder permit. It also would deem requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act fully satisfied for the proposed pipeline.

US President Barack Obama has said he will not make a decision on the matter until courts in Nebraska resolve a legal challenge involving the project’s new route across the state.

In their Dec. 30 letter to Boehner, US Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), and Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking members-elect of, respectively, the Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources Committees, said all House members should have the opportunity to consider, debate, and propose their ideas on Keystone XL legislation in committee hearings and markups.

A bill also should be subject to a rule allowing amendments once it reaches the House floor, they added. “Mr. Speaker, a new Congress represents new beginnings,” the three House Democrats told Boehner. “We urge you to use this opportunity to recommit to the value of thoughtful deliberation. We urge you not to bypass the committee process and regular order for consideration of this controversial legislation.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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