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US Senate panel advances bill to force Keystone XL approval

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Energy Committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that would force congressional approval of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline project, but the measure seems unlikely to be taken up by the full Senate.

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The bill, the latest effort by lawmakers to breathe life into the long-delayed pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, will languish without a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring it to a vote.

The measure, from Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, would take a decision on approving the pipeline away from the Obama administration.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming termed Wednesday’s vote “a cheerleading exercise” but still voted for the bill in a 12-10 vote.

Another measure from Hoeven to approve the pipeline has 55 cosponsors but has not been put to a vote in the 100-member Senate. Support is just short of the level that would be needed to overcome an expected veto from President Barack Obama.

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill backed by manufacturers and environmentalists.

TransCanada has waited more than five years a decision on the $5.4 billion project, which would carry up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude from the oil sands of northern Alberta to Texas.