US Sec. of State Hillary Clinton has assured Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that Washington will decide by yearend whether to issue a permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas.
"We are leaving no stone unturned in this process and we expect to make a decision on the permit before the end of this year," said Clinton, adding that, with respect to Keystone, “We are planning to issue the final environmental impact statement this month.”
The 1,700-km, $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline, proposed by TransCanada, is to begin in Alberta and extend through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma before reaching the Texas coast. In September DOS will host public meetings in all six of the states.
Although a Republican-led congressional committee already has urged Clinton to "immediately approve" the project, environmental and citizen groups have launched a fight against the pipeline because production from oil sands needs energy that produces large amounts of greenhouse gasses.
“We've been clear from the beginning that the safety of the pipeline is one of our highest priorities. We have not only conferred with the EPA, but also with an organization called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Association,” Clinton said.
“This is obviously tremendously important to the future prosperity of the Canadian economy,” said Baird, adding, “We had a good discussion about it, and I respect that the Secretary is the decider.”
Baird acknowledged the environmental concerns faced by the US government, but also drew attention to the boost that the Keystone project would provide for US energy security.
"I think you have some legitimate concerns with respect to pipeline security, which obviously we want to ensure that this pipeline—like all the others that exist in the United States—is built safely," Baird acknowledged.
But he added that there are people with “other agendas” with respect to the source of the oil for the pipeline and that his Conservative government "takes issue with that."
Baird said the pipeline is “incredibly important” for the energy security of the US, observing that, if the Americans buy oil from Canada, “they don't have to buy it from [Moammar] Gadhafi”—a reference to Libya’s embattled leader.
The US House approved a bill setting a Nov. 1 deadline for the Obama administration to decide on TransCanada’s application for a cross-border permit for its proposed Keystone XL oil line (OGJ, Aug. 1, 2011).
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