House Energy Committee panel passes bill to expedite Keystone XL approval

The Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3) passed the Energy and Power subcommittee with a 17-9 vote. All Republicans voted in favor of the bill, with Democratic Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Gene Green (Texas) joining them.

The bill would strip the need for pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. to receive a cross-border permit from the State Department to construct its northern leg, which would stretch into Canada.

Republicans, centrist Democrats and business groups who say Keystone would supply jobs and oil from an ally have accused Obama of slow-walking the permit decision.

"I have no doubt in my mind that the president of the United States wants to delay this to the point where the people ... just forget about it," Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), who co-sponsored the bill, said during the Tuesday markup.

Many Democrats, along with green and progressive groups, oppose the pipeline. They say it would foster development of oil sands, a dense form of oil that Keystone detractors say would cause a spike in greenhouse gas emissions.

"The bill effectively short-circuits the environmental review process," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrat.

The legislation now proceeds to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it will likely pass. Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has said he wants to get the bill called on the House floor before Memorial Day.