The Washington Times - May 15, 2012, 12:18PM

Former North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, a leading voice in his party on energy issues during his 30 years in Congress, said Tuesday that he believes the massive Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline will eventually be built, even if President Obama wins re-election in the fall.

“This is a pipeline that will be built,” said Mr. Dorgan, a former chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development and now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center focusing on energy issues. Republicans, business and labor groups have hammered the Obama administration for its failure so far to approve the $7 billion pipeline.

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“I suspect it will be debated on the campaign trail, but this country will have the Keystone Pipeline,” Mr. Dorgan said, speaking at an energy forum sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

Mr. Dorgan also said he believes President Obama will make a decision on the pipeline “later, rather than sooner,” and conceded that there are environmental voices in his party that could make it difficult for the administration, should it remain in power for another term, to green-light the massive project. GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney has strongly endorsed the project.

Mr. Obama “has some supporters that are concerned about it,” Mr. Dorgan said.

If built, the pipeline would transport oil from Canada to markets in the U.S., stretching all the way to refineries in Texas. Developer TransCanada has reapplied for the necessary permits, but a decision from the White House isn’t expected until after the November election.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the ecological impact of the pipeline, especially through sensitive water reserves in Nebraska, but TransCanada recently announced a deal with state officials there on a modified route.