Rahall: Keystone oil pipeline will be dropped from final highway bill

A senior House Democrat who supports the Keystone XL oil pipeline predicted Thursday that the project will be left on the cutting room floor in House-Senate negotiations over transportation legislation.

“My guess is that it would not be in the final product,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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The comments are the latest sign that backers of the pipeline will face hurdles winning its inclusion in the bill to reauthorize popular road and infrastructure programs.

The House version of the transportation programs funding bill includes language that approves construction of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Senate plan omits it, and bicameral talks are under way to craft a final bill before the current transportation programs authorization expires at the end of June.

Rahall, who is on the bicameral panel negotiating on the bill, said interest in jobs tied to other portions of the bill will carry the day.

“I mean, putting people to work is much more important right now. I'd say in a majority of states, putting people to work by passing this transportation bill is more job than the Keystone pipeline in their states,” he told reporters.

The White House, which says the pipeline needs more review before a federal cross-border permit can be granted, has threatened to veto the House transportation bill that approves the pipeline.

Republicans are pressing for inclusion of Keystone, but some GOP members have hinted that they’re reluctant to jeopardize the negotiations over the matter.

—Mike Lillis contributed