U. s. to hold an­other round of hear­ings into Key­stone

Vancouver Sun - - BUSINESS - BY shel­don al­Berts

WASH­ING­TON — The U. S. State Depart­ment on Mon­day bowed to de­mands from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and agreed to hold a new round of pub­lic hear­ings into Cal­gary-based Tran­sCanada Corp.’ s pro­posed Key­stone XL pipe­line.

The de­ci­sion does not ap­pear likely to fur­ther de­lay a rul­ing on whether to ap­prove con­struc­tion of the 2,700-kilo­me­tre line, which would trans­port di­luted bi­tu­men from north­ern Al­berta’s oil­sands to re­finer­ies on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

The State Depart­ment said it plans to have a fi­nal de­ci­sion on Key­stone XL by the end of the year.

It said it will hold the pub­lic meet­ings af­ter it is­sues a fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment on the pro­ject.

The State Depart­ment had ear­lier Mon­day just com­pleted a pub­lic com­ment pe­riod on a sup­ple­men­tal draft en­vi­ron­men­tal study of the pipe­line’s im­pact.

But en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and landown­ers along the pro­posed route com­plained the process did not in­clude an op­por­tu­nity for stake­hold­ers in states af­fected by the pipe­line to raise con­cerns at pub­lic hear­ings about green­house gas emis­sions and the po­ten­tial haz­ard to sen­si­tive ecosys­tems, par­tic­u­larly the Ne­braska Sand Hills and the vast Ogal­lala Aquifer, which sup­plies ground­wa­ter to much of the Great Plains.

In re­sponse, the State Depart­ment said it would hold six meet­ings — in Mon­tana, South Dakota, Ne­braska, Ok­la­homa, Texas and Wash­ing­ton, D. C.

“ These meet­ings will give the pub­lic an op­por­tu­nity to voice their views on eco­nomic, en­ergy se­cu­rity, en­vi­ron­men­tal and safety is­sues” as well as any other that might de­ter­mine if the pro­ject should be deemed in Amer­ica’s na­tional in­ter­est,” the depart­ment said in a state­ment.

The State Depart­ment has au­thor­ity to grant a pres­i­den­tial per­mit for the pipe­lines be­cause it would cross an in­ter­na­tional boundary.

Even as the State Depart­ment de­cided to ex­tend con­sul­ta­tions, the U. S. oil in­dus­try ar­gued de­nial of the pipe­line would threaten the coun­try’s en­ergy se­cu­rity. The Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute, in a letter to Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, warned the U. S. risked los­ing ac­cess to Cana­dian oil sup­plies as other na­tions work “ ag­gres­sively” to de­velop the re­source.

China has been keen on gain­ing more ac­cess to oil­sands sup­ply.

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