The legislation comes roughly two weeks after the Obama administration delayed a final decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 elections by requiring a new route analysis. The bill faces huge hurdles in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but regardless of the bill’s prospects, Republicans backing the pipeline hope to exact a political toll on Obama for punting the issue past the election.
The pipeline delay was a victory for environmentalists that had said approval would sap their energy to mobilize on Obama’s behalf in next year's election. But several unions, including the Laborers' International Union of North America and three other unions, another key part of Obama’s political base, back the project. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute are lobbying in favor of the pipeline, arguing it’s a vital way to boost energy security by expanding supplies from a friendly neighbor while creating jobs.
|Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)|
The State Department currently plans to complete an analysis in 2013 of new routes that would steer the pipeline away from the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska. But pipeline backers say an agreement this month between TransCanada and Nebraska politicians to avoid the area should allow a faster approval. Lugar’s panel has jurisdiction over the new bill because the State Department is leading the federal review of the proposed $7 billion project. (The Hill, 11/30/2011)