U.S. President Barack Obama last week signed a measure that extends a payroll tax benefit. The bill contains a measure inserted by U.S. House of Representatives Republicans that gives the president 60 days to either approve a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline or say the project isn't in the national interest.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said the project is "shovel-ready" and, with the measure signed into law, an obvious national interest.
"We strongly urge the president to move swiftly to approve the permit and move forward with this project, which is clearly in our national interest," he said in a statement.
Backers of the project claim it would provide jobs and energy security to a weakened U.S. economy. Critics say the benefits of tar-sands oil pipelines like Keystone XL aren't worth the environmental risk.
Nebraskans protested that the original route planned for Keystone passed over a key aquifer, prompting a reconsideration of the route. That meant the U.S. State Department had to review the plans, meaning a final decision was unlikely until after November presidential elections in the United States.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer in mid-December sanctioned a permit for TransCanada, the Canadian company planning the pipeline. TransCanada said that permit means it's OK to go ahead with construction provided the federal government gives its approval.
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