Top Senate Dem might conduct oversight of Keystone pipeline

Asked directly whether he has a hearing planned on the topic, Wyden said, “Let me have a chance to talk to senators about those issues before I make any proclamations.”

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The comments come after Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told reporters last week that he was talking to Wyden about a potential hearing on Keystone.

Hoeven said he was willing to shelve a planned amendment to energy-efficiency legislation that would force a vote on Keystone in exchange for a hearing. TransCanada Corp.’s project is awaiting a federal decision for a cross-border permit needed to complete the pipeline’s northern leg.

While Hoeven’s concession on the amendment front could help Wyden move that bill, it also might give the Oregon Democrat a chance to raise concerns he has about the pipeline.

Wyden has long said he believes the oil sands Keystone would haul to the Gulf Coast are destined for markets abroad, rather than for domestic consumption — a claim he reiterated Tuesday.

“You’ve got basically half of the refineries in the Gulf Coast area essentially foreign-controlled. And they’ve already indicated that they want to export. And a bunch of the American-owned refineries want to export. So I’ve been concerned for some time about the export question,” he said.

Keystone’s supporters, such as Hoeven, contend the export aspect is overblown. They say supplies from the pipeline would offset imports of Venezuelan oil, strengthening U.S. energy security in the process.

Wyden on Tuesday praised Hoeven's willingness to withhold tacking an amendment on Keystone to the energy-efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Wyden has been working closely with the sponsors to limit controversial amendments to the bill, which sunk a similar version last year as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proved reluctant to call it on the floor.

Wyden said Reid has been "very cooperative," but hasn't yet indicated when Shaheen-Portman might be considered in the Senate.