If the Republican-sponsored bill passes the Democrat-controlled Senate, the final decision could come by the beginning of November.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday to impose a deadline of November 1 for the Obama administration to make a final decision on a proposed $US 7 billion pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Reuters reported.
The House voted 279-147 in favor of the Republican-backed bill that would require the State Department to approve or deny a permit for TransCanada’s planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would eventually transport 700,000 barrels (30 million gallons) of crude per day 2,750 kilometers (1,719 miles) from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
Supporters of the project say the pipeline would create jobs, reduce energy prices, and increase U.S. energy security by making the country less dependent on Middle Eastern oil.
But the project faces strong opposition from environmental groups and many Democrats who are concerned about the carbon footprint of oil sands production, as well as the industry’s impact on water resources. The route proposed by TransCanada, the project developer, cuts across the High Plains Aquifer System, one of the world’s largest aquifers and the water source for 2.8 million people and nearly 5.3 million hectares (13 million acres) of irrigated farmland.
There have also been increased worries about the corrosive effects of crude and pipeline safety, in light of the recent leaks in TransCanada’s pipeline from Canada to Oklahoma and the July oil spill in the Yellowstone River from Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip oil pipeline.
Yesterday’s vote came on the one-year anniversary of a rupture on an Enbridge pipeline that spilled 19,000 barrels (800,000 gallons) tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
The bill still has to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate before it can become law. On Monday, the White House called the measure “unnecessary” because the State Department has already committed to issuing a final environmental review in August and making a final decision on the project by the end of 2011.
Earlier this year, in June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criticized the pipeline’s draft environmental review, prompting the State Department to complete further studies. On April 22, the State Department had released a supplemental environmental review, which it had completed after its initial draft, released in April 2010, was also deemed unsatisfactory and given the lowest possible rating of “inadequate” by the EPA, saying that the review had failed to address some potential environmental impacts.