WASHINGTON — A US congressional committee on Wednesday voiced support for an extension of a Canadian oil pipeline, saying it offered a stable source of energy despite concern by environmentalists.
The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 30 to 14 to approve a text saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "should promptly authorize" the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) Keystone XL project.
"Canada, as a democratic ally, offers a stable source of energy for the United States," said the amendment sponsored by Representative Connie Mack, a Republican from Florida.
"We could help a friend and ally in Canada and strengthen our relations with Canada instead of continuing to buy oil from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela," said Mack, a staunch critic of the leftist president.
The vote enjoyed support from a number of lawmakers from President Barack Obama's Democratic Party. But the practical impact was likely limited as it came during a debate on an overall spending bill, which will likely face opposition in the Democratic-led Senate.
Calgary-based TransCanada wants to build Keystone XL as an extension to its existing 2,154-mile (3,467-kilometer) pipeline that now terminates both in Oklahoma and Illinois. The expansion would go through the Great Plains and to the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposal is fiercely opposed by many environmental groups as the oil would come from mining in Alberta tar sands, a process that produces far greater emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The year-old Keystone pipeline has also suffered leaks, leading US regulators to shut it briefly last month.
Seven Democratic senators recently sent a letter to Clinton urging a thorough review of the Keystone XL project before any decision, calling for assurances of "sufficient safety measures."
Canada has strongly advocated approval of the pipeline, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying in February that he raised the issue with Obama.