Senate bill would speed permits for pipelines like Keystone

Four senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would set a time limit on the government’s consideration of cross-border oil pipelines like Keystone XL and remove the president’s role in the process.

The senators said the bill came from their frustrations over President Obama’s consideration of Keystone, whose developer applied for a permit almost six years ago.

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Keystone itself would not be subject to the bill’s provision, nor would any pipeline with a pending permit request.

“Energy infrastructure projects are too important to our economy and our national security to be dragged out, virtually for years in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty McCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks This week: ObamaCare repeal faces latest setback in Senate MORE (R-N.D.), one of the sponsors, said in a statement.

“We need a process that is fact-based and transparent, a process that looks out for the interests of the American people now and into the future,” he said.

“It is important to strike a balance between adopting regulations that are necessary to protect our environment and managing the adverse economic impact these regulations have on investment and growth,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin bashes GOP candidate for pushing McCain to resign McCain’s primary challenger asks him to step aside after diagnosis Governors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare MORE (D-W.Va.), another sponsor.

Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were the other sponsors.

The bill matches one passed by the House in June.

The State Department would have 120 days to consider a permit for a pipeline that crosses into Canada or Mexico after the environmental review is complete. Unlike current practices, the president would not have to approve, and the only section of the pipeline subject to environmental review would be the part that crosses the border.

House Democrats blasted the bill as an end-run around environmental rules and objected to the bill creating a presumption that pipelines ought to be approved.

They also called it the “zombie pipeline” bill, saying it would allow TransCanada Corp. to reapply for a Keystone permit under the new rules. 

The White House threatened to veto the bill shortly before the House passed it.