In another attempt to move forward with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a top House Republican is pushing Congress to approve work on much of the northern portion of the Canada-to-Texas project that has been delayed for years.
Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, who has taken the lead on the issue, on Monday introduced a bill that would allow completion of the northern portion of the pipeline from the Canadian border, where the tar sands oil comes from, down through Montana and South Dakota.
But it would stop short of Nebraska, where the biggest battle over the pipeline's environmental effects is being waged. The Obama administration has delayed giving the green light for Canadian-based builder TransCanada for the bulk of the pipeline route, citing those environmental questions.
"We're introducing a new and improved Keystone bill," Mr. Terry told reporters. "This project helps us become energy independent and, at the same time, creates jobs."
But environmental groups say it is just another attempt by Republicans to rush approval of the $7 billion pipeline project.
"Now, in order to game the system — with Congressman Lee Terry carrying the water — and build a cross-country pipeline behind our backs, TransCanada is trying to split up their proposal into piecemeal sections," Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, wrote on its blog.
This isn't Mr. Terry's first attempt to expedite approval for the Keystone pipeline, which enjoys more support in the GOP-run House than in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority. He hopes his latest approach will get more support from the Senate.
"I really don't think it's ramming it down the Senate's throat," he said.
TransCanada filed a new proposal with the State Department in May for a revised route that skirts sensitive water resources in Nebraska. But the agency announced in June that it would conduct another environmental-impact study of the entire route, which is 1,179 miles long, rather than just the 88-mile portion that was updated, a move pipeline supporters said would lead to even longer delays.
Mr. Terry also called on the Senate to review only the new portion of the proposed pipeline and to accept the completed reviews for the rest of it.
"Why do you want to shut down the northern part, when construction should be approved and starting next spring?" he asked.
The Nebraska Republican suggested this could be an attempt by the Obama administration to delay the pipeline decision indefinitely.
"Are they going to carry this out for another four years unless we do something about it?" he asked.
Mr. Obama has given the go-ahead for the southernmost portion of the pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Texas, but has ordered more studies and reviews in Nebraska before approving the northern portion.
Mr. Terry hopes that by removing Nebraska from the equation he can draw more support to begin building the pipeline in these other less controversial states.
"The only issue is Nebraska," Mr. Terry said. "[We can] do Nebraska later."
Many Republicans and business groups have charged that the president is delaying the pipeline decision until after November's election, because it is splitting two of his most important constituencies. Unions that would get many of the estimated 20,000 construction jobs building the pipeline support Keystone, while environmentalist groups oppose it.
But Mr. Terry insists this isn't about politics.
"This doesn't have anything to do with elections," he said. "If we do it the week after the election, I'm equally as pleased as if we do it tomorrow."
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