WASHINGTON - The head of the Senate energy committee plans to introduce a bill next week to force approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the full chamber faces a battle in obtaining needed votes to overcome any veto by President Barack Obama.
Keystone supporters say they picked up votes for TransCanada Corp.'s $8 billion project in November's midterm elections, including Republicans Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia and Joni Ernst from Iowa.
That means this year's bill will most likely have a few more than the 60 votes needed to pass, but lack the 67 votes needed to overcome a presidential veto.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and the new head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will introduce the bill Thursday after a hearing the day before on the pipeline project, her spokesman said Friday.
"We are trying to allow it to go through the open committee process and bring it to the Senate floor and let them vote on it," spokesman Robert Dillon said.
A similar bill fell one vote short of approval in November. That measure was sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who lost in a runoff vote last month, and John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican.
The project, which has been pending for more than six years, would bring some 800,000 barrels per day of Canada's oil sands petroleum to Nebraska en route to Gulf Coast refineries. Environmentalists who say mining the oil sands increases emissions linked to climate change. Labor and oil interests say the project will increase North American energy security and offer thousands of construction jobs.
At the Senate energy panel hearing Wednesday, lawmakers will hear testimony from Keystone supporters from labor and industry and from a critic at the Center for American Progress think tank.
The path of the pipeline is being held up by a legal decision in Nebraska, where the state's top court is expected to rule early this year.
Meanwhile, the State Department is deciding whether the project is in the country's interest. Obama has opposed Keystone bills, saying his administration's approval process is not completed. He has said he would not approve the pipeline if it would substantially raise emissions linked to climate change.