House Energy chairman not hopeful Obama will approve Keystone XL pipeline

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Friday that he is not holding out much hope that President Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Though normally a pretty good optimist, I am not overly optimist [sic] that the president will allow the Keystone XL to move forward despite Nebraska's reroute of the pipeline thru their state,” Upton said in a live Web chat on Michigan news website Mlive.com where he typed out answers to questions.

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The fate of the pipeline rests with Obama because it crosses national boundaries.

While most lawmakers want Keystone to go forward, environmental groups hope Obama’s recent comments on climate change — and the confirmation of John Kerry as secretary of State — foretell the project’s end.

Upton noted that a majority of the House supports the pipeline that would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Most senators back the project as well, with 53 of them urging Obama to greenlight it in a letter.

Legislators and industry supporters say the pipeline will bring thousands of jobs, lessen dependence on foreign oil and also help reduce bottlenecks in shipping oil from North Dakota's booming Bakken region.

“Canada has made it pretty clear that they will be almost quadrupling their production before the end of the decade and this oil sand will find a mkt —whether it be here, China or overseas,” Upton wrote. "Without the pipeline, a good sized volume is now being transported by rail--silly not to build a pipeline.”

Upton noted Obama's pick of Kerry for secretary of State could have an impact on the Keystone project. Kerry has voted against mandating approval of the pipeline, but has not expressed a position on the project itself. 

Kerry, an ally of green groups, is now overseeing a review of the pipeline, which the State Department will conclude no earlier than the end of the first quarter this year.

Canadian officials already are pressing Kerry on the pipeline. Canada’s foreign affairs minister is scheduled to discuss Keystone in a Friday meeting with Kerry.

Separately, the chief executive for TransCanada Corp., the company building the pipeline, met with a senior State Department official Thursday.

Green groups have praised Kerry’s record on climate change and hope he will elevate the issue from his new post.

Those activists say Kerry’s climate advocacy and Obama’s recent pledges to address the issue are encouraging signs that the administration might stop the project.

To keep pressure on the White House, several environmental groups are participating in a Feb. 17 rally in Washington, D.C., that will urge Obama to reject the pipeline.

— Updated at 12:51 p.m.