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Obama to rule on Keystone during term

By: Tonya Becker

Posted:19:26, Nov 8, 2015 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had sought to “shield this process from politics”, but the president’s many delays have only injected more politics and posturing into the national debate.

Girling said during the conference call that while that process – which could take up to a year to complete – there was little reason for the State Department to move ahead.

The Project: The 1,179-mile (1,900-km) Keystone XL pipeline would move 830,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta, across the USA border to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with a previously approved line.

Experts on both sides of the border say there are both climate and political implications to TransCanada’s request for the State Department to pause its review of the pipeline permit.

If granted by the US State Department, the delay would nearly certainly hand the decision for the long-delayed project to a future president rather than Barack Obama, a Democrat.

In the seven years that Keystone XL has been under review by the State Department, political support for the project has waxed and waned. Supporters maintain it will create jobs and reduce US reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

League of Conservation Voters Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “This is nothing more than another desperate and cynical attempt by TransCanada to build their dirty pipeline someday if they get a climate denier in the White House in 2017″. But she did indicate that State may be inclined to reject TransCanada and finish the review.

The Keystone XL pipeline project was first proposed more than six years ago, but has languished, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an global boundary.

Facing pressure to act, former Gov. Dave Heineman convened a special legislative session in late 2011 to pass new pipeline regulations.

Harper had been urging the United States to approve the 1900-kilometre pipeline. “It’s absolutely front and centre of any producer’s mind when they commit to a multi-billion dollar project”, said Sonny Mottahed, chief executive officer of boutique investment bank Black Spruce Merchant Capital, adding more projects could scrapped because of the Keystone XL delay.

This afternoon the White House weighed in and President Obama still has the ability to kill the project, and apparently plans to make a decision before leaving office. The GOP presidential field is unanimous in its support for Keystone, while Obama has downplayed its benefits and emphasized environmental risks, setting up a high bar for approval. The company also has lost its most important domestic ally in the Keystone effort, Conservative Stephen Harper, who was ousted last month as Canada’s prime minister.

But the $8 billion pipeline, which would enable crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to reach refineries and ports in the United States, isn’t dead yet.

Asked whether he feared Obama would reject Keystone XL, Girling said bluntly: “No”. And TransCanada would be racing against the clock: Without sufficient pipelines in place, the low oil price is already squeezing oil sands production and forcing companies out of the game.

Since Monday’s announcement by TransCanada, environmental groups and others are now pressing the Obama administration to outright reject that pipeline rather than agree to a suspension.

TransCanada Corp TRP.TO TRP.N, Canada’s second-largest pipeline company, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by higher earnings from its Keystone systems.

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