State Department delays Keystone XL pipeline project

By Holley Nees - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A proposed pipeline that would run right through East Texas and is designed to carry Canadian tar sands oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast will be further delayed while the U.S. government conducts an additional environmental review.

The 1,700-mile oil pipeline would run right through western Nacogdoches County, all around the town of Douglass.

Environmental groups had called on the Obama administration to conduct the additional review. A presidential permit from the State Department is required because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

The Sierra Club along with several East Texas residents rallied to protest the pipeline in December of 2010 at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse.

"We are very pleased that the State Department is taking a closer look at Keystone XL," said Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Kate Colarulli. "Now we need to make sure they do a thorough job.  If any foreign oil project requires close scrutiny by our government, it's this one. This project would carry toxic, dangerous tar sands oil right through America's heartland, putting our drinking water and farming at risk."

However, TransCanada says Keystone XL will transport oil very similar to those already being transported and processed by other pipelines and refineries across America.

The company said over the past few years they've held more than 90 open houses and public meetings along the pipeline route.

"Keystone XL has been under review since 2008 and we are confident we have addressed the major questions raised by regulators and government agencies," said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer.

The company claims the project will help put America back to work, creating 20,000 jobs and inject billions into the U.S. economy.

Calgary-based TransCanada first submitted its Keystone XL project for State Department review in late 2008. The project is designed to carry crude oil from tar sands near Hardisty, Alberta, to the Gulf Coast via Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas,Oklahoma and Texas.

The U.S. Department of State announced they expect to request public comment on a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in mid-April. The department said the Supplemental EIS will seek public comment on issues that will benefit from further public input. A Federal Register notice is set to be issued in the mid-April time period to provide further details.

"In order to provide interested parties and the public the maximum opportunity to comment on this important project, the Department will continue to solicit public comment," said a spokesman for the State Department.

The department has held more than 20 public comment meetings in several states, including Texas, along the pipeline route.

The public will have 45 days to comment on the Supplemental Draft EIS after the anticipated mid-April comment period begins. Following issuance of a Final EIS, the State Department will solicit public comment and host a public meeting in Washington, D.C., before it makes a determination under Executive Order 13337 on whether issuance of the permit is in the U.S. national interest, the State Department said.

The Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign said they would be working hard to be sure the State Department hears from the thousands of Americans in opposition to the project.

"It will be a safe, modern and leading-edge pipeline and we have provided the Department of State and other agencies with the facts regarding Keystone XL's design, safety, operating procedures and limited environmental impact," Girling, the company's president and CEO maintained.

The U.S. Department of State expects to make a decision on whether to grant or deny the permit before the end of 2011. The company had predicted earlier that a decision on the project would come by the end of 2010.

"We are pleased the Department of State has committed it will conclude its review of Keystone XL by the end of the year," said Girling. "The Keystone expansion is expected to be operational in 2013."

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