Landrieu pushes back at WH on Keystone

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is threatening to push legislation to speed the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, unless the Obama administration agrees to set a firm deadline for deciding the fate of the project.

Landrieu's threat followed a letter she and other Democrats sent to the White House Thursday, which called on the administration to make a final decision on the pipeline by the end of May. According to an aide to Landrieu, she will push for legislation to speed up approval of the $5.4 billion project if the White House doesn't respond to the letter.

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The Democratic letter put pressure on the Obama administration to ensure that Secretary of State Kerry makes a recommendation on the pipeline by mid-May, soon after a State Department review of the project.

Landrieu, who fills a crucial seat in the Senate for Democrats critical to maintaining control of the chamber, is facing her own pressure in the form of a tight reelection cycle this year. Since taking over as chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Landrieu has made her voice heard on many contentious energy issues from crude oil and natural gas exports, to Keystone.

She also plans to hold a hearing in May on building North America into an energy powerhouse, which will take a hard look at Keystone, an aide to Landrieu said in an email on Friday.

On Thursday, the White House had a message of its own on Keystone. When asked if Obama would set a timeline for his decision because of increased pressure from Democrats, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said no.

"Our position on that process hasn’t changed, which is that it needs to run its appropriate course without interference from the White House or Congress," Carney said to reporters. "It was because of actions taken by Republicans in Congress that one delay was caused in the process already."

"And when there's a decision to be announced, it will be announced," Carney added.

The Hill asked Landrieu's office if that was enough to spur the senator to act on her threat of legislation, but they did not respond to a request for comment.

The State Department's review process is expected to end by early May, leaving Kerry to make his recommendation on the pipeline. After that, President Obama should be able to announce his decision sometime this spring.