TransCanada, Keystone proponents say pipeline not dead

By Patrick C. Miller | March 23, 2015

Following the U.S. Senate’s failure to override Pres. Barack Obama’s veto of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada and supporters of the project are vowing to continue to push for its completion.

Currently, it’s up to the Obama Administration to decide whether building the pipeline is in the nation’s best interest, a decision that’s been pending for more than six years while the U.S. State Department reviewed TransCanada’s proposal. In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, the president said his decision would come in “weeks or months.”

Mark Cooper, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said, “This is definitely a project that’s in the interest of the United States. We’re very hopeful that the president and the administration will see it that way.”

Cooper told The Bakken magazine he’s heard that the administration will be making a decision soon, and then added, “But that’s a rumor, and until we see it, I can’t really speculate.”

Obama has continued to emphasize the negative aspects of the pipeline, saying that it wouldn’t create many permanent jobs, citing environmental concerns about its route through Nebraska and calling the method of extracting crude from Canadian tar sands “extraordinarily dirty.”

“Whatever result we get, we’re going to keep our options open for our next steps,” Cooper said. “That could very well be continuing on and moving forward. But until we actually see that decision from the State Department, I’m not going to speculate on what our next steps will be.”

The Senate bill vetoed by Obama authorized TransCanada to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline. It would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The 1,179-mile, 36-inch-diameter oil pipeline would provide market access for Bakken crude at Cushing, Oklahoma.

The Senate needed 67 votes for a two-thirds super majority to override the veto, but fell five short of that number. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who sponsored the bill—also passed in the House with bipartisan support—expressed disappointment, but said the efforts to pass the bill weren’t over.

“At this point, we will continue to press for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline by attaching a similar measure to another must-pass bill, perhaps an energy, transportation or appropriations bill,” Hoeven said.

While expressing gratitude for the bipartisan support the bill received in Congress, Cooper noted that the legislative route was not the company’s first choice.

“We’ve tried to stay away from the political process as much as we possibly can, but the truth of the matter is that this has become a very political issue,” he said.

Cooper emphasized the value of the Keystone XL pipeline to North Dakota’s oil and gas industry, as well as the agriculture industry.

“Certainly for North Dakotans, the project is really important in that we have a Bakken on-ramp in Baker, Montana, and an ability for up to 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude being taken off trains and put on a pipeline,” he said. “It’s s a much safer and more efficient way to get crude to the refineries and also reduces the crude-by-rail bottleneck, which has prevented grain and other commodities from getting to market.”

Taking issue with the Obama Administration’s claim that the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t create many permanent jobs, Cooper said, “We make no apologies for the fact that we provide construction jobs for American men and women. The people who have these jobs string them together to make a career. Without temporary jobs, we wouldn’t have the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.”

And, he continued, “It’s okay if you don’t support our project, but let’s not insult the people who have helped build America.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said failure to override the veto provided “clear evidence that more work remains to gather additional support for this project—finding a true commitment to a diverse energy plan is not going to be easy. But last Congress I successfully recruited ten Democrats to support Keystone – and I’m not one to back down from a fight.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who sponsored the U.S. House bill to approve the Keystone pipeline, said he will “continue working to find a successful legislative avenue or obtain a presidential permit to approve this important piece of transportation infrastructure.”

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said, “While we urge Congress to continue to fight for KXL, there should be no need for Congressional action if the president would make a final judgment on Keystone. The president has always had the authority on this and he can approve this pipeline today.”

Noting that the State Department has produced 17,000 pages of scientific review on the Keystone XL project and found that it would have minimal environmental impact, Cooper said the pipeline is ultimately about energy independence for North America.

“The bottom line is that America still imports some 7 million barrels of oil per day,” he said. “The fundamental choice is whether Americans want that oil from Canada and the United States or whether they want to continue to support the heavy oils from Venezuela and Nigeria.”


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