WASHINGTON – Promoters of the Keystone XL pipeline are agitating for its fast approval now that the State Department has downplayed the project’s effect on global warming. Energy leaders in the House of Representatives back a bill to force the government to approve it, and the premier of the Canadian province of Alberta is in Washington lobbying for the project.
Some Republican congressmen dismissed concerns at a hearing Wednesday on the Keystone bill that the jumbo pipeline to tap Canada’s greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands would warm the planet.
Texas Rep. Joe Barton was skeptical of the linkage that scientists have made between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
“If you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the great flood is an example of climate change. That’s certainly not because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy,” Barton said,
It’s up to President Barack Obama to decide whether to allow the 1,700-mile pipeline to bring oil from the Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The bill, sponsored by Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, seeks to take that authority out of the president’s hands.
TransCanada Corp. first applied to build the pipeline in 2008, and Alexander Pourbaix, the company’s president for energy and oil pipelines, called Wednesday for swift approval, saying it still might be “many months” before Obama decides.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford also is in Washington lobbying for approval of Keystone, saying in an address at the Brookings Institution research center that denial of the pipeline would be an ongoing thorn in relations between Canada and the United States.
A coalition of Keystone opponents suggested that Redford cut short her time in Washington and instead visit the site of the recent Exxon Mobil pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark.
“Redford and Canadian oil companies may benefit from the pipeline, but folks here at home will be the ones taking on all of the risk, without any reward,” said Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for the All Risk No Reward group, which includes landowners near the Keystone pipeline route and environmental groups.
Keystone opponents say it would be irresponsible to approve the pipeline before the State Department finishes its review of the project.
“The denial of Keystone XL will help to slow development of the oil sands. As a growing source of carbon emissions, slowing the expansion of oil sands is an important step,” Mark Jaccard, a professor of energy and the environment at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said in testimony Wednesday to the House energy committee as it considered the bill to force approval of the pipeline.
The State Department’s draft environmental analysis concluded, though, that construction of the pipeline is unlikely to have a significant impact on climate change. That’s because denying Keystone wouldn’t stop the Alberta oil sands from getting to market by rail or by other pipelines, according to the analysis.