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Lawmakers push bills to approve Keystone pipeline

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Demonstrators carry a replica of a pipeline during a march against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Richar
Demonstrators carry a replica of a pipeline during a march against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Richar

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress said Friday they are moving forward with bills introduced this week to pluck the power of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada's oil sands to Texas, from the hands of the Obama administration.

Republican Rep. Lee Terry from Nebraska introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday to approve TransCanada Corp's 800,000 barrels per day Keystone XL pipeline. It is a companion bill to a bipartisan bill introduced on Thursday by Senators John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat.

A senior lawmaker said he hopes to have the bill ready for a vote in the full House of Representatives by the end of May.

"Our intent is to bring it to the House floor prior to Memorial Day," Fred Upton, the chair of the chamber's energy and commerce committee, told reporters. The Memorial Day holiday lands on May 27 this year.

Hoeven said he believes the Senate bill currently has more than 50 votes of the 60 needed in the 100-seat chamber. But he expected the bill would easily get more supporters.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision on the oil sands pipeline around August or later, after the State Department finalizes an environmental assessment of the project.

TransCanada filed for a permit more than 4-1/2 years ago.

The State Department must also determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, a decision made with input from several federal agencies. That determination alone is slated to take at least 90 days.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday that the decision process on trans-border pipelines belongs with the State Department.

A southern leg of the pipeline, from Texas to Oklahoma, that did not need approval from the State Department is more than halfway built. Besides taking Canadian oil sands crude, the full Keystone XL pipeline would help drain a glut of petroleum building up from the Montana and North Dakota oil boom.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner,; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick; and Peter Galloway)

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