Senate Likely to Vote Soon on Keystone Approval

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday that lawmakers are likely to vote soon on legislation designed to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and bypass the Obama administration, which has been reviewing the project for nearly six years.

"There's a 75% to 80% chance we can work something out on Keystone," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said Thursday. He confirmed that the chamber likely would vote on a stand-alone Keystone bill, instead of making it an amendment to another measure.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Mary Landrieu, (D., La.), and Sen. John Hoeven, (R., N.D.), introduced legislation earlier Thursday that would approve the project. The bill has support from all Senate Republicans and 11 Democrats, including six up for re-election.

Ms. Landrieu said Thursday it was her "understanding" that Mr. Reid would bring that bill to the floor for a vote, adding that there are "ongoing negotiations" with the White House on the Keystone vote. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that Congress should stay out of the process.

The State Department indefinitely delayed the pipeline in April, citing legal uncertainty over a Nebraska law that allowed for the pipeline's route through the state.

The Landrieu-Hoeven bill would allow for the legal process in Nebraska to play out and could accommodate route changes that might result. In addition, an aide noted, the State Department permit is needed to allow the pipeline to cross the Canadian-U.S. border, not to go through Nebraska. Some legal experts have questioned whether such a bill would be lawful given that there is technically no legally approved route through the state.

The pipeline project, which would bring oil from Canada's oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, has become a political wedge issue for the midterm elections. Environmental groups are urging Democrats to oppose the project, while conservative groups and Republican challengers are calling out Democrats who don't support it.

Democrats up for re-election who are co-sponsoring the bill are Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska, John Walsh of Montana and Ms. Landrieu.

In March 2013, 17 Democrats joined all Republicans to vote for an amendment supporting the project. That vote, 62-37, was nonbinding but sent a message given the surprisingly large number of Democrats who voted yes. Some of the Democrats whose yes votes were the least expected, including Delaware's Tom Carper and Christopher Coons, sought to clarify after the vote that they didn't technically vote to support construction of the pipeline over the authority of Mr. Obama.

A year before that vote, in March 2012, 11 Democrats joined all Republicans to vote, 56-42, to approve the pipeline. That measure needed 60 votes to pass.

Mr. Hoeven said in an interview Thursday that this latest bill has 56 supporters.

Write to Amy Harder at amy.harder@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

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  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  05-01-141625ET
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This article appears in: Energy , Commodities

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