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Congress Will Vote On Keystone XL Pipeline, With An Eye On Louisiana

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate energy committee, spoke Wednesday about getting congressional approval for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline. With her is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a member of the committee. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

toggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate energy committee, spoke Wednesday about getting congressional approval for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline. With her is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a member of the committee.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Two bills that would authorize building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will soon come to a vote in Congress, as their sponsors — Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — head toward a runoff election next month to decide who will win the Senate race.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports:

"On the Senate floor, Landrieu called for action on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline project, saying, 'I believe with a push we could actually get the votes that we need to pass the Keystone pipeline.'

"Soon after, Republican leaders in the House scheduled a vote Thursday on a Keystone bill sponsored by Landrieu's rival, Cassidy.

"The two face off in a Dec. 6 runoff. The pipeline is a key issue in Louisiana, where the oil and gas industry dominates."

Energy company TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas; it has been a polarizing issue, pitting those who say it would create thousands of jobs against environmentalists who say tar sands oil is too expensive and toxic to refine. Where one side says the plan would bolster the energy industry, the other says it would increase greenhouse gases.

Wary landowners along its path have also spoken out, complaining that the pipeline would disrupt their property and damage farms — particularly if it ever sprang a leak. As the Two-Way has reported, "In February, a Nebraska judge struck down a 2012 law that allowed part of the pipeline to run through the state."

The AP notes that the Obama administration isn't welcoming news of a vote on the matter:

"While the White House stopped short of directly threatening a veto, spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama takes a 'dim view' of legislative efforts to force action on the project. Earnest reiterated Obama's preference for evaluating the pipeline through a long-stalled State Department review."

From NPR's StateImpact project comes this background:

"The Keystone Pipeline already exists. What doesn't exist fully yet is its proposed expansion, the Keystone XL Pipeline. The existing Keystone runs from oil sand fields in Alberta, Canada, into the U.S., ending in Cushing, Okla.

"The 1,700 new miles of pipeline would offer two sections of expansion. First, a southern leg would connect Cushing, where there is a current bottleneck of oil, with the Gulf Coast of Texas, where oil refineries abound."

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