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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Hoeven-Manchin bill seeks to approve Keystone XL pipeline without presidential blessing

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that seeks to approve the Keystone XL pipeline under Congress's authority.

The first piece of legislation brought to the Senate floor in the 114th Congress, the Hoeven-Manchin bill (S. 1) is co-sponsored by 60 senators. So far, 63 senators have indicated support for the legislation, said Hoeven and Manchin — both of whom serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — in a joint statement.

The bill would authorize TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pipeline would transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to the refineries, including 100,000 barrels from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, the senators said. If S. 1 passes, a presidential permit no longer would be needed to approve the project.

The measure would formally recognize the U.S. State Department's final Environmental Impact Statement released in January 2014, which concluded the construction of the pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment or the development of the Canadian oil sands, the senators said.

"The Keystone XL pipeline is basic infrastructure like rail, roads and transmission lines that the United States needs to make the nation energy secure," they said. "This kind of infrastructure is a vital part of a comprehensive energy plan for the country."

The pipeline has been under review for more than six years and has prompted five environmental reports to date.

"Working with Canada, we can achieve true North American energy security and also help our allies," said Hoeven. "For us to continue to produce more energy and compete in the global market we need more pipelines to move crude at the lowest cost and in the safest and most environmentally friendly way."

However, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) — the ranking member and former chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — yesterday called on Republicans in Congress to focus on passing a long-term surface transportation legislation rather than the Hoeven-Manchin bill.

"It is a puzzle to me that after a deep recession, Republicans turn to legislation that according to the State Department will only create 35 permanent jobs," she said in a prepared statement. "Instead, Republican leadership should immediately take up the highway bill which supports millions of jobs and will run out of funding in four short months.”

President Barack Obama has indicated that he would not sign the Hoeven-Manchin bill.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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