Senator Mitch McConnell. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

After taking control of the U.S. Senate Tuesday, Republican members of Congress are gearing up to expedite approval for the Keystone XL pipeline.

A bill introduced earlier this year that would green light the pipeline without the need for President Obama to sign off on the project is now believed to have 61 Senate votes.

Republicans won more seats in both houses Tuesday and now control the Senate and the House.

North Dakota Republican senator John Hoeven will also propose a new bill that would allow Congress to use the Foreign Commerce Clause to approve the pipeline without the need for presidential approval, Reuters said.

“I’ve got a bill right now that’s got about 56 co-sponsors. And with the election results, we’ll have over 60 who clearly support the legislation,” Hoeven said.

Several Democrats are also expected to sign onto both pieces of legislation.

Some observers believe that senate leader Mitch McConnell will open the legislative session with the Keystone bill.

Earlier this week Calgary-based TransCanada said years of regulatory delays have spiked the pipeline’s estimated cost by $2 billion to about $8.4 billion.

The pipeline has been waiting for U.S regulator approval since 2009 and has faced vocal opposition from environmentalist groups.

The crude pipeline would stretch 1,179-mile from Hardisty, Alberta to to Steele City, Nebraska located just north of the Cushing oil hub.

The Keystone XL would also make it easier to transport crude produced in Bakken to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Earlier this year the U.S. State Department released a key assessment of the pipeline that concluded the project would have a limited environmental impact.

The State Department said that if the pipeline is not built producers would use more dangerous transportation methods to move product such as rail or tankers.


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