As Keystone vote looms, it’s crunch time for federal agencies to weigh in


The Senate is expected to vote soon on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

State Dept. tells 8 federal agencies they have until February 2 “to provide their views on the national interest”

New CNN/ORC survey shows 57% of Americans support the pipeline going forward
By Kevin Bohn
WASHINGTON (CNN) — With the Senate expected to vote soon on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, the State Department is now giving eight federal agencies two weeks to weigh in on it.

The State Department on Friday notified those agencies have only until February 2 “to provide their views on the national interest with regard to the Keystone XL Pipeline permit application,” a department official told CNN Saturday, adding that the department “continues its review” of the pipeline’s permit application.

The State Department is involved because the pipeline originates outside U.S. borders, and is reviewing whether TransCanada Corp.’s 1,179-mile project is in the national interest. The U.S. government’s review had been delayed pending a decision by the Supreme Court of Nebraska, one of the states it would run through. That court recently ruled the pipeline could proceed. So now it is up to the State Department to make its recommendation.

The setting of the deadline for such entities as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce and Interior departments could be a key indicator as observers wait for the administration to make a final determination of its position. The White House has said it was waiting for the State Department’s recommendation before making its opinion known.

Proponents of the pipeline got a boost this week with the release of a new CNN/ORC poll showing a majority of Americans favoring construction of the pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico for refining.

The survey said 57% supported it going forward and 28% opposing.

Earlier this month the Republican-majority House of Representatives passed a bill to force construction, arguing it would create jobs and help guarantee energy independence. With Republicans now in control of the Senate, they have also made the Keystone a priority and promised a vote soon.

The Senate resumes debate this coming week, with all 54 Republicans there expected to support it along with as many as nine Democrats.

The White House has threatened that President Obama would veto the measure because Congress is trying to circumvent the current process, and it is unclear if Congress would be able to muster two-thirds of each house to override a veto.

CNN’s Eric Bradner contributed to this story.

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