Senate Foreign Relations chief Menendez plans Keystone pipeline hearing

The hearing would ensure an even greater spotlight on the looming federal decision over Keystone XL, which would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

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A wide-ranging State Department draft environmental report last week dealt a major blow to climate change activists opposed to Keystone.

A key conclusion is that Keystone is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” a finding that counters green group claims that Keystone would be a major catalyst for carbon-intensive oil sands development.

Menendez’s Thursday comments about holding a hearing go beyond his initial reaction to the State Department’s draft report, which is now open for public comment.

On March 1 he noted, “I look forward to monitoring this process closely” but stopped short of declaring plans for a formal Capitol Hill hearing.

The project is at the center of a furious political and lobbying battle.

Major business groups, Canadian officials and many unions are pressing President Obama to greenlight the project, while climate change activists have made blocking Keystone a top priority.

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