Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance march in Washington
Washington - AFP
The US Senate will hold a hearing next week on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists and some Democrats.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said it would hold the hearing on legislation to approve the pipeline project on January 7, after the chamber falls under Republican control.
The $5.3 billion project would carry crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries from Canada's tar sands.
Republicans have long backed the plan, arguing it will boost US oil and gas production and create jobs.
In November, the Senate -- while still under Democratic control -- rejected by a single vote a bill that would have approved construction of the 1,179-mile (1,900 kilometer) pipeline.
Republicans immediately vowed to approve the bill as soon as they have control of the Senate.
Environmentalists oppose the project and President Barack Obama says the pipeline would not necessarily reduce oil prices in the United States.
But Republicans hope they will be able to pass a law authorizing the pipeline that bypasses Obama's office.
The Canadian firm TransCanada first proposed the pipeline in 2008.
Alberta's tar sands are considered to have "dirty" oil. Unlike traditional crude that gushes from a well, tar sand oil must be dug up and essentially melted with steaming hot water before it can be refined.
This means more fossil fuels must be burned as part of the extraction process, further fueling climate change.