Keystone: Resurfacing in the 2016 presidential race?

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TransCanada Corp., the Canadian company tangled in the Keystone XL pipeline project, is already preparing its counterattack to a likely White House veto of the controversial oil pipeline.

While TransCanada Corp. has made public statements saying they remain hopeful President Obama will have a change of heart, insiders say behind the scenes the company is in overdrive trying to find ways to challenge a likely White House no.

One way is a challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement to claw back damages from the U.S. government. Another would be to refile a permit application with the State Department before the 2016 presidential election.

The Keystone bill is a contentious issue and one Obama has threatened to veto multiple times. First proposed in 2009, the Keystone pipeline would connect Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Using the 2016 elections as leverage in the Keystone fight could be a double-edge sword for candidates courting voters. Republicans have already accused Democrats of stalling the process.  And Democrats have called out frontrunner Hillary Clinton for not publicly stating her position on the thorny $8 billion project.

At Thursday’s primetime Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which starts in Canada and flows to the U.S., is key to the country’s long-term economic success.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.