WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Washington should seize the opportunity to back the Keystone XL oil pipeline before planner TransCanada tilts toward Asia, said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton.
Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed frustration that approval for the Canadian oil pipeline to the southern U.S. coast wasn't getting immediate support from U.S. President Barack Obama.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman this week said he was satisfied a revised route for the controversial tar sands pipeline avoided the sensitive Sand Hills area of the state.
Project supporters note that's likely one of the last hurdles for the pipeline's approval.
Upton expressed concern the White House signaled that a decision on the pipeline would likely come after the first quarter of the year.
"It has now been over four years since TransCanada first applied for the Keystone XL permit," he said in a statement. "We can't afford to wait any longer, especially as TransCanada considers alternatives, including shipping oil to China."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year courted Asian economies for his country's vast oil reserves. Virtually all of Canada's oil exports are designated for the United States.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in a statement to United Press International that the company was waiting for the U.S. State Department to publish its draft environmental assessment of the project.
"We continue to believe that Keystone XL will be approved, but we know that we still have a lot of work to do before we can receive a presidential permit," he said.