WASHINGTON — In 2009, the Obama administration approved a 986-mile pipeline to bring 400,000 barrels of oil sands petroleum a day from western Canada to the United States. Almost no one paid attention. Construction on the pipeline, called the Alberta Clipper, was quietly completed last year.
In that same period, the administration considered construction of a similar project, the Keystone XL. So far only in the blueprint stage, this pipeline has become an explosive political issue that Republicans are seizing as their first challenge to President Obama in the new Congress.
The Republican-controlled House is set to pass a bill to force approval of Keystone on Friday and the Senate is expected to pass the measure in coming weeks. Republicans say the pipeline will create jobs and spur the economy while environmentalists and some Democrats say it will destroy pristine forests and create carbon pollution. Mr. Obama has vowed to veto the bill.