On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would take the decision out of the president’s hands. The Senate has yet to weigh in.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline could be approved on a much shorter timeline than was laid out by President Barack Obama, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday giving approval power for the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Senate has not yet considered the bill.
If made into law, the bill would give the FERC 30 days to approve the $US 7 billion TransCanada Keystone XL project. The pipeline would carry crude oil 2,750 kilometers (1,710 miles) from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Texas coast. The pipeline, as currently proposed, would go across the Ogallala aquifer.
The project was denied by the Obama administration in January, after the first attempt by Congress to push for a quick decision. Obama claimed that the deadline set by Congress did not allow time for the assessment of alternative routes meant to avoid Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region and the aquifer. The new bill would take the decision out of the president’s hands, and TransCanada released a statement on Tuesday estimating that the pipeline will be up and running by 2015.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House voted to pass the measure 237-187, saying that the pipeline will create jobs and increase U.S. energy independence. The bill also includes provisions to allow development of energy resources in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Colorado’s oil shale, Bloomberg News reported.
The Keystone XL debate is also active on local levels of government. For example, in Texas, property rights activists are fighting to keep TransCanada from taking land for the pipeline through eminent domain. On Monday, a county judge placed a temporary restraining order on the company to stop it from doing construction work on a local farm until a hearing that is scheduled for February 24. There have been 89 cases of TransCanada using eminent domain claims in Texas, according to The Huffington Post.