By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives said on Friday they will attach a bill designed to speed approval of the Keystone pipeline to payroll tax cut legislation House Speaker John Boehner hopes to pass this month.
The move is designed to ratchet up the heat on President Barack Obama, whose administration has put the Keystone XL pipeline on hold pending a study of a new route, pushing a decision past the 2012 presidential election.
When complete, the pipeline would deliver some 700,000 barrels a day of oilsands crude from the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Green groups oppose the line because of concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from the mining of the Alberta tar sands and on worries about spills.
The House bill would take the decision out of the administration's control, instead giving the power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent regulatory body that already oversees pipelines.
"There's less chance of foot-dragging" at FERC, said Nebraska Representative Lee Terry, the Republican drafting the bill.
"The point of this is to avoid the politics and get to the jobs," said Terry, who told reporters that Boehner said the Keystone bill would become part of the unemployment and tax holiday legislative package that the House hopes to pass this month.
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Job creation and the sagging economy loom large in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential elections. Democrats and some Republicans have said they want to extend a payroll tax cut that is slated to end on December 31 as one way to help the economy.
Republicans in the Senate are working on a different strategy to advance the pipeline. But any effort to force a quick decision on Keystone will face a steep uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
TransCanada Corp's $7 billion project would create an estimated 20,000 jobs during construction.
"There are better ways to create better, lasting jobs," said Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce committee, at a hearing on the project.
"My greatest concern is that Keystone XL would make us more reliant on the dirtiest source of fuel currently available," Waxman said, referring to studies showing oil from the Canadian oilsands leads to more carbon emissions than conventional oil.
The State Department had originally planned to announce a decision on Keystone by the end of the year, after three years of review.
That enraged environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. The state of Nebraska was also concerned about the route.
Nebraska negotiated a new route with TransCanada. The State Department said it would need to study the new route before deciding whether to approve the pipeline, which will push the timetable back into 2013.
The White House has said the State Department needs to take the time it needs to review the new route's impact.
(Editing by David Gregorio)