Keystone Pipeline

November 11, 2011 by staff 

Keystone Pipeline, Premier Alison Redford said her government remains committed to seeing the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline approved in the United States, though that process will now be delayed until after the 2012 presidential election.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department ordered a new review of the project aimed at rerouting the pipeline around sensitive ecosystems along its proposed path through Nebraska.

A final determination on whether to grant Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. a presidential permit to build the 2,700-kilometre line is now unlikely before “the first quarter of 2013,” the department said.

The State Department decision is a reminder of the importance of developing new markets for Alberta, Redford said.

News of the postponement comes as the premier prepares for a trip to Washington and New York City next week. Keystone was expected to be a relatively minor topic in her scheduled meetings, but the premier indicated she may look for more opportunities to talk about the issue with U.S. leaders.

“Our original strategy was not to advocate particularly on behalf of this project,” she said. “But there is a possibility that because the dynamics are changing so quickly, that other opportunities could present themselves.”

Word of the delay angered pipeline supporters, who accused the White House of interfering to spare President Barack Obama a contentious decision in the midst of his campaign for re-election.

But State Department officials said they were under no pressure from the president.

“The White House did not have anything to do with this decision,” said assistant secretary of state KerriAnn Jones.

In a statement, Obama said he backed the delay because he felt there was a need for more information about the potential impacts on people and natural resources along the proposed pipeline route.

The decision comes after months of growing opposition to Keystone XL from environmental groups, legislators and landowners in Nebraska.

The State Department said it will now “examine in-depth alternative routes” for the pipeline.

TransCanada’s favoured route crosses through Nebraska’s ecologically fragile Sand Hills and across the shallow Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water and irrigation to 80 per cent of the state.

The new plan is to find a route exclusively within Nebraska that avoids Sand Hills completely, something the State Department had not done before despite substantial public concern over the past year.

“We are looking at a route that we didn’t look at before,” Jones told reporters.

The Keystone XL pipeline, as proposed by TransCanada, would run from Hardisty to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, carrying as much as 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

“Up until about one o’clock this afternoon, we were anticipating a presidential permit by the end of 2011,” said Robert Jones, vicepresident of Keystone Pipelines for TransCanada.

Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive, said in a statement the new delay “could have potential negative ramifications” for U.S. shippers and refiners in need of new oil supplies.

The delay is a significant victory for U.S. environmentalists who succeeded in recent months in turning the pipeline into a political issue.

Last Sunday, more than 10,000 pipeline opponents protested at the White House against the project.

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