By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — Republicans continued efforts to advance the Keystone XL oil pipeline, hoping to bypass President Barack Obama’s decision to shelve the project and drive a political wedge between Democrats on the issue.
The GOP-led House’s Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would remove the project’s approval from the administration’s jurisdiction and require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to decide whether to approve the project within 30 days.
“We’ve got to move the Keystone XL pipeline forward, despite the president’s effort to kill it — and this bill does just that,” said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., the bill’s author.
The pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. would cut through the American heartland from tar sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries. The Obama administration postponed a decision on the project until after the November election and maneuvered around a GOP attempt to force an earlier agreement.
GOP leaders say the project will boost the economy by creating jobs, and they hope to splinter two core Democratic constituencies — environmentalists who worry the project will create more pollution and some union leaders who see the promise of additional work for construction and related industries.
Republicans had tried to force Obama to make a decision on the pipeline by attaching a Keystone provision to a package to extend the payroll tax break last year. But the State Department, which has jurisdiction over the project’s permit, said it could not approve the application in the 60 days allotted by the legislation.
With gas prices on the rise, Republicans now hope to attach the bill to an upcoming infrastructure package that could go to a vote next week. That package would fund transportation projects with proceeds from new oil drilling.