--Bill follows Obama administration's delay of a final decision on the pipeline until after 2012 election
--White House denies the decision to delay was motivated by politics
(Update includes quotes from White House, Senate minority leader and others, along with additional details, throughout the story.)
By Tennille Tracy
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other key Republicans introduced a bill Wednesday to try to force the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
The legislation, which has the backing of top Republicans on Senate energy and foreign relations committees, requires the administration to approve a permit for the 1,700-mile oil pipeline within two months of the bill's passage unless the president determines it is not in the national interest to do so.
The Obama administration recently postponed a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 elections, saying it wants to consider alternative routes in Nebraska. Citizens in that state complained that the pipeline would pose a risk to the Ogallala Aquifer, a source of drinking water.
The Keystone XL pipeline, proposed by TransCanada Corp. (TRP, TRP.T) in 2008, would stretch from Alberta to Texas and pass through six U.S. states. The pipeline would transport oil taken from tar sands, an unconventional petroleum deposit that requires additional processing before it can be used.
While the fate of the bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate is unclear, the legislation does signify Republicans' intentions to exploit the issue heading into an election year. McConnell said at a press conference Wednesday that the president "obviously is making an effort here to curry favor with environmental activists who are skeptical--or beyond skeptical, downright opposed--to this project."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One, dismissed suggestions that the pipeline decision was delayed until after the 2012 presidential election for political purposes.
"I recognize that there are people in Washington, D.C., who want to apply a political label to every single thing that the president or other members of this administration do," Earnest said. "But at the end of the day this decision falls cleanly in line with the priorities that the president laid out."
(What priorities? Avoiding adding 200,000 new, permanent jobs ???? WTF !!!)