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Alberta gets Republican allies in Keystone XL pipeline fight

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito wins the Republican primary for US Senate seat and speaks to the media at the Kanawha County Clerks Voter Registrain Office in Charleston W.Va. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

Tyler Evert AP/The Associated Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice have some new and outspoken Keystone XL advocates who will tip the balance in the U.S. Senate come January, when a new effort to force U.S. President Barack Obama to approve the $8-billion export pipeline that will send Canadian oil sands crude south to Gulf Coast refineries is expected.

"It's energy, it's jobs, it's a pipeline from a friendly country," enthuses Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican who won in West Virginia and replaces a Democrat who voted against Keystone XL.

In South Dakota, the staunchly pro-pipeline Republican Mike Rounds won, replacing a retiring Democrat who opposed the project. "With the new members coming in we should have enough to kick us over the 60-vote margin necessary, so I think there's real hope to move the Keystone XL pipeline forward," Mr. Rounds said, referring to last week's 59-41 failure to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate in the Senate.

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With Republican majorities in both houses of Congress in January and sufficient support to clear the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, legislation giving Keystone XL a green light is expected to reach Mr. Obama's desk. The President is expected to veto it, which will escalate the showdown over Keystone XL.

It seems unlikely that pro-Keystone supporters can muster the 67 votes – a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat Senate – needed to override a presidential veto.

Republican midterm election gains of eight seats – and perhaps nine once Louisiana stages a Dec. 6 runoff – helps Keystone, but only with a net gain of three or four votes. In some states, such as Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina, pro-Keystone XL Democratic senators lost to pro-Keystone XL Republicans.

In Iowa, Joni Ernst, a Republican and combat veteran who famously boasted that her castration skills learned as a farm girl made her perfect to cut pork in Washington, replaces the retiring Democrat Tom Harkin, who opposed Keystone.

In only one Senate race did a candidate make opposition to Keystone XL a key part of his platform. That was in Nebraska, where Democrat Dave Domina was trounced by Ben Sasse, a pro-Keystone XL Republican. Mr. Domina, a lawyer, also heads the legal team on behalf of ranchers and others who have challenged the legality of TransCanada's route in Nebraska. A ruling on that case, now before the state's Supreme Court, is expected early in 2015.

Mr. Domina said he was "against TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline which threatens Nebraska landowners and the environment" and told voters "change must be made from fossil fuel tax subsidies to growth of clean renewable energy."

In Nebraska, Mr. Sasse beat Mr. Domina by a 2-1 margin, roughly matching the levels of support pollsters find countrywide.

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