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House to vote on Keystone next week

The House will vote next week on a bill to allow construction of the northern portion of the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline.

In considering H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act Republicans are resuming a fight with the Obama administration over a project that they say will create jobs and offer the United States energy security. 

But they are fighting a White House that has delayed full approval for the project and argued that more time is needed to assess its environmental impact. Many Democrats have also argued that the pipeline would be used to export refined oil, leaving little of it in the hands of Americans.

The bill says no presidential permit is needed to begin construction of the northern route.

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The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. In 2012, President Obama approved the portion of the route from Oklahoma to the coast, but he has not approved construction from Canada to Oklahoma.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said in March, when he introduced the bill, that the Obama administration has had plenty of time to assess the entire project and approve it.

"Over 1,600 days ago, the initial permits were filed to apply to build the Keystone pipeline," Terry said. "To put that time frame in perspective, it took the United States just over 1,300 days to win World War II; and it took Lewis and Clark just over 1,100 days to walk the Louisiana Purchase."

Terry's bill finds that to keep the nation's competitive edge, it needs a "fast, reliable, resilient and environmentally sound means of moving energy." The delivery of oil from Canada via the Keystone pipeline helps achieve that goal, and also lessens dependence on "insecure foreign sources," it says.

It also finds the Keystone XL pipeline would help create jobs in the short and long-term, and that the government has conducted "extensive studies" of the project.

In light of these findings, the bill says no presidential permit is needed to build the pipeline. It also gives the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will have original jurisdiction to hear any legal challenges involving the construction of the pipeline, the constitutionality of the bill, and the adequacy of any environmental impact statements related to the project.

It also makes two specific environmental findings — that the Keystone pipeline will not jeopardize the American burying beetle, and that the Secretary of the Interior is deemed to have issued a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow the construction of Keystone.

Critics of the pipeline project argue it would devastate the environment and add to global warming. They also question how many jobs would be created by the project.

The House Rules Committee has set a Tuesday deadline for amendments, a sign that the committee will meet soon to approve a rule for the bill, allowing the House to take it up sometime next week.