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