Alberta's premier says he is encouraged the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could soon go to a vote in the United States Congress.

Speaking at a Progressive Conservative Party event in Red Deer Wednesday night, Jim Prentice says there is new momentum on the $8-billion TransCanada project.  

"I'm hopeful. I'm cautiously optimistic, but things were dynamic and emotional even today in the United States. I was pretty much getting hourly reports so it will be a fascinating couple of days."

prentice

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says he is hopeful about the latest push by U.S. legislators to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. (CBC)

The Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and increased majority in the House of Representatives in last week’s midterm elections set the stage for the renewed push to get Keystone approved.

Legislation to approve the controversial pipeline began racing through the U.S. Congress on Wednesday as some Democrats appeared to be coming together with Republicans to challenge President Barack Obama's oversight of the project.

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Friday on a bill forcing approval of the project, according to a Reuters report citing a congressional aide.

If the Senate also approves the bill next week, Congress would be aiming to take the decision on the pipeline out of Obama's hands.

But it still would be up to Obama whether to sign the measure into law. The pipeline project needs presidential approval because it crosses an international border.

Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest signalled the White House was unmoved by the latest push.

“Evaluating those earlier proposals, we have indicated that the president's senior advisers at the White House have recommended that he veto legislation like that," Earnest said. "And that has continued to be our position."

The Obama administration has been weighing for six years whether to approve the pipeline that would run from Canada south to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The project also faces a court challenge in Nebraska over the pipeline's route.

Obama likely to veto 

Senior CBC News Washington correspondent Neil Macdonald said on the Calgary Eyeopener Thursday that even if a motion to approve the construction of Keystone passes both houses of Congress, Obama will likely veto it.

He said the new-found support for Keystone among some Democrats could be fleeting, having mostly to do with a tight Senate race in Louisiana.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who chairs the Senate energy and natural resources committee, is fighting for her political life in a run-off vote on Dec. 6.

“This is sort of political hucksterism at its worst. It’s breathtakingly hypocritical for the Democrats, who have steadfastly refused to allow this to come to a vote, in order not to embarrass President Obama,” he said.

“Keystone is very popular in Louisiana, a lot of jobs depend on it, so Landrieu and [her opponent] are both trying to champion it.”

Obama is determined to wait for a final recommendation on Keystone from the U.S. State Department, Macdonald said.

Industry strong

Prentice said despite falling oil prices, the long-term strength of the energy industry in Alberta is not in question.

But he said a cautious attitude is needed because no one knows how long the prices will be low.

“Oil prices below $80 dollars per barrel have implications for Alberta. We all need to be cautious. We need to be prudent.”

The province can't control international oil prices, but it can control public spending, he said.

With files from CBC News