A bill that would require approval of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday by a vote of 237-187.
"This bill puts America on a path toward energy independence," said Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn after his bill, H.R. 3408 the "PIONEERS Act," cleared the lower house with support from both parties.
According to a statement released by Lamborn's office, the legislation would clear a path forward for Keystone XL by transferring authority over the pipeline's permit from the President to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In addition, it instructs FERC to approve the pipeline within 30 days if the permit remains in compliance with the U.S. State Department's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS concluded that building the pipeline was the "preferred" option.
The bill also gives FERC 30 days to approve Nebraska's proposed alternate route of the pipeline around the state's Sand Hills area following the environmental review and once the state's governor has approved it. Nebraska's Republican governor and other state officials had expressed concerns about a section of the original planned pipeline route through the area because it would overlie the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada subsequently agreed to avoid the environmentally sensitive area by developing an alternative route with the state's Department of Environmental Quality. The company has said that it expects that process to conclude by this October.
Commemorating the third anniversary of the unprecedented economic stimulus package that President Obama signed into law February 17, 2009, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Friday applauded the PIONEERS Act's progress. Upton called Keystone XL "a true shovel-ready project that will create tens of thousands of jobs -- without costing the taxpayers a dime."
"Keystone XL represents exactly the kind of private investment we need to jumpstart our economy and drive down unemployment," added Upton.
The effort to jump-start the Keystone XL project now shifts to the upper house, where Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have introduced similar legislation: S. 2100.
The future of such legislation in a so-called "lame duck" presidential election year, however, is uncertain. President Obama decided in January to deny a presidential permit for Keystone XL and judged that it is not in the national interest, effectively pushing back a decision on the matter until a second term--should he win reelection this fall.
Obama's Democrat Party, which frequently opposes oil and gas industry initiatives, controls the U.S. Senate while the opposition Republican Party controls the House of Representatives. Because presidential and congressional elections can bring significant changes in majority party makeup in Washington, Keystone XL's prospects might improve if the generally pro-industry Republicans gain more power in this fall's races for Congress and the White House.
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