News Articles Featured | Globe and Mail | August 26, 2011
The U.S. State Department has concluded TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP-T41.680.050.12%) Keystone XL project will not cause undue environmental impacts, paving the way for likely approval of $7-billion project after a 90-day comment period.
In a environmental impact study released Friday, the State Department said TransCanada needed to conduct more study – and possibly add more spill protection – around the Ogalla aquifer in Nebraska.But it rejected claims by environmental groups that the pipeline represented a serious threat to water and air along the route, and would dramatically drive up greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands producers who will use it to ship crude to Gulf Coast refining hub.
The Keystone XL project is seen as a critical link for Alberta oil producer to diversify their market beyond the U.S. mid west into Texas, which houses the world’s largest refining hub and one that is particularly suited to processing oil sands bitumen.
The Harper government – along with Alberta – has lobbied heavily in Washington to win approval for the project.
The environmental assessment moves the Obama administration a step closer to a final decision on the pipeline. It now has 90 days to determine whether the controversial project is in the national interest of the United States.
The decision isn’t a surprise to the big U.S. environmental groups that are fighting the pipeline. An official for one group, the National Resources Defense Council, says State Department officials failed to conduct many of the studies the environmentalists were demanding.
Among them was an examination of whether Keystone XL could be rerouted to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in the U.S. Midwest, and to assess whether pipelines are prone to leaks.
The State decision comes as anti-pipeline activists continue a two-week civil disobedience campaign outside the White House.
More than 250 people, including Canadian actress Margot Kidder, have been arrested as they try to convince U.S. President Barack Obama to block the pipeline.
Keystone XL has become a lightning rod for the environmental movement in the U.S. in the aftermath of failed climate-change legislation last year.
Environmental activists say the project is a disaster waiting to happen and are opposed to Alberta’s oil sands due to the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions involved in their production.
Proponents, meantime, say the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and help end U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil.