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Sen. Hoeven: Keystone XL tops agenda for new Congress

Pro-pipeline Republicans will control both chambers in January.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is sponsoring the Keystone XL pipeline bill. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d09736253688ff49c5d283134ed87723/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is sponsoring the Keystone XL pipeline bill. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The Keystone XL oil pipeline planned to cross the U.S.-Canadian border will be the first order of business for the next Congress, Sen. John Hoeven said.

A Keystone XL bill sponsored by Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass last month. Maine Independent Sen. Angus King likely tipped the balance toward the nays.

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The measure was seen as a last-ditch effort by Landrieu to improve her chances for re-election, though she lost her bid in a runoff against Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy. When the bill failed in November, Hoeven vowed to press again when the new Congress takes its seat in January.

"Sen. Mitch McConnell announced that my Keystone XL approval bill will be the first order of business in the new Congress," the North Dakota Republican said.

McConnell, R-Ky., is slated to become the Senate leader next term. Midterm elections put the Republican Party in control of both chambers.

Hoeven's measure was the second such effort to advance the pipeline, which needs a special federal permit because it would cross the Canadian border.

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TransCanada, the company planning the pipeline, submitted its application for the project more than six years ago.

The pipeline has become a scapegoat for environmental groups worried about the threats posed by the heavier grade of crude oil in Canada. It's viewed as more carbon intensive than other oils to produce and it sinks in water, making cleanup difficult.

Hoeven said that, even if the November measure had passed, it would've likely been met with a veto from President Barack Obama.

The narrative over the pipeline has been fluid. Hoeven said the pipeline would also help move oil from the Bakken reserve area in his state to refineries. This, he said, would provide a net benefit to the regional energy sector.

"We need to build infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline so that we can move energy safely and effectively as part of a comprehensive energy plan for the nation," he said Tuesday.

Washington this week hosted a trilateral meeting with Canadian and Mexican energy ministers. A readout of the meeting said now is a "crucial time" in North America given the glut of oil and natural gas.

Leaders during the meeting agreed to a broad regional agenda that embraces "modern, resilient energy infrastructure for North America in all aspects."

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