TransCanada Renewing Request to Build Keystone Pipeline

02 28, 2012 by The New York Times

TransCanada said Monday that it would reapply for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canadian oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, assuring that the fiercely contested project will remain a source of political heat throughout the presidential campaign.

The company also said it would seek immediate permission to move ahead with the southernmost portion of the project, from Cushing, Okla., to the gulf, in the hope that that part of the pipeline could be in service by the end of 2013. As a standalone project, the company said, the Gulf Coast portion of the pipeline would cost $2.3 billion and create about 4,000 construction and support jobs.

In January, President Obama rejected the company’s previous application to build the full pipeline, saying a Congressional mandate that he decide on the project by mid-February did not allow adequate time to complete environmental reviews. He said his action was not a final judgment on the project and invited the company to move quickly on the southern part of the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would transport only domestic oil. That part would not cross any international borders and thus would not require special approval from the State Department.

Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail have harshly criticized the president’s decision to block the pipeline, saying it forfeited American jobs and increased the country’s dependence on imported oil.

Mr. Obama was squeezed from the other side by Democrats and environmentalists who oppose the pipeline. They say it encourages production of a particularly dirty sort of crude from oil sands and would threaten sensitive lands and water sources along its route.

Opponents mounted two large protests around the White House last year, calling for an end to the project. Mr. Obama tried to finesse the issue by delaying a decision until after the presidential election, but Republicans in Congress forced his hand.

The White House welcomed the company’s decision to move forward with the Gulf Coast part of the pipeline on Monday.

“As the president made clear in January,” it said, “we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high.”

“We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner,” the statement added, “and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.”

TransCanada said it would reapply for a presidential permit for the cross-border part of the project and would slightly alter the pipeline’s route to avoid the most environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska.

Russell K. Girling, president of TransCanada, said in a statement that the company was working with the State of Nebraska and other parties to resolve issues over the northern section of the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Mr. Girling said, “the Gulf Coast project will transport growing supplies of U.S. crude oil to meet refinery demand in Texas. Gulf Coast refineries can then access lower cost domestic production and avoid paying a premium to foreign oil producers.”

Bill McKibben, an environmental activist, author and scholar who organized some of the pipeline protests last year, said he opposed TransCanada’s more limited current proposal.

“Even though this doesn’t bring new oil in from the tar sands,” Mr. McKibben said, “we stand with our allies across the region who are fighting to keep giant multinational corporations from condemning their lands. This fight is uniting people, from environmentalists to Tea Partiers, in all kinds of ways.”