Calls to build Keystone XL grow as DOS Nebraska hearings begin

Calls for the Obama administration to authorize construction of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline’s final segment increased as the US Department of State began hearings on the project in Grand Island, Neb., on Apr. 18.

“Pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil and the Keystone XL pipeline will be one of the safest pipelines ever constructed and operated,” Association of Oil Pipe Lines Pres. Andrew J. Black testified. DOS’s draft supplemental impact statement for Keystone XL confirmed that pipeline leaks are rare, finding a 0.00025/mile-year historic incident rate, he said.

In Washington, Cindy Schild, American Petroleum Institute senior downstream manager, also urged US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, to approve TransCanada’s revised cross-border application for Keystone XL, which would transport heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands to US Gulf Coast refineries.

“No pipeline project has been analyzed as long and as thoroughly as the Keystone XL pipeline—it’s been under review for more than twice as long as it will take to build the entire project,” she told reporters during a teleconference.

Schild said, “While the delays have been frustrating, [DOS] should be commended for the comprehensive nature of its analysis, and it should come as no surprise that they have reached the same conclusion in this review that they did in their previous three reviews: The Keystone XL pipeline is safe and will create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs.”

Environmental organizations, meanwhile, have begun to attack the draft SEIS’s conclusions. “Any objective analysis of the impact of building Keystone shows that it would be a climate catastrophe,” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said on Apr. 16. “Instead, [DOS] seems ready to buy into the pipeline propaganda of an army of lobbyists who are trading on their ties to Secretary Kerry and President Obama to taint the decision.”

Showing support

Schild said API Central Region Director John Kerekes and several labor union leaders would testify on Apr. 18 at the Nebraska hearing. “We are honored to be working cooperatively with our allies in the building trades unions and in the veterans’ community as they participate in today’s hearing to show their support for this vital project,” she said.

API already has held five Keystone XL rallies and planned to hold two more on Apr. 18 in Beaumont, Tex., and in St. Louis, where API Pres. Jack N. Gerard was scheduled to speak with Missouri Atty. Gen Chris Koster, Schild said. The trade association and others who support Keystone XL plan to submit joint written comments on Apr. 22, she added.

Gerard met with federal lawmakers on Apr. 17 to remind them that Keystone XL has broad public support and would provide long-term economic benefits. “The years of delay have only strengthened support for the Keystone XL pipeline,” he maintained. “We need leadership from the president, not more delays.”

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee approved HR 3, Rep. Lee Terry’s (R-Neb) bill which would bypass DOS and the White House and congressionally approve Keystone XL, the same day by 30-18 votes, and referred it to the full House.

“Many people say that this is an exercise in futility because if it passes the House it will never pass the Senate,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, which advanced the bill a day earlier. “I would remind everyone that when the Senate adopted its budget recently, there was an amendment in support of the Keystone pipeline that was approved by a vote of 62-37, with 17 Democrats supporting it.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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