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Easter Weekend Brings More Keystone Delays

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The U.S. State Department has delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project once again.

Citing the need for additional time created by on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court, the State Department announced on April 18 the decision to allow the eight federal agencies responsible for granting permitting for cross-border energy infrastructure more time to submit their views on the proposed project.

According to the 2004 Executive Order 13337, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency are the eight federal agencies that must be consulted for issuing permits regarding energy pipelines that cross the international boundaries of the United States.

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In addition, the State Department announced it would take the additional time to “review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period,” which closed on March 7.

The State Department insisted that the agency’s consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, and the department and relevant agencies are actively continuing their work in assessing the Permit application.

The department stated that the permit process will conclude “once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents.” The department said it will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.

TransCanada Corp. president and CEO Russ Girling said he was “extremely disappointed and frustrated” by the delay. In an April 21 statement, he said, “Another delay is inexplicable.”

The first leg of the Keystone pipeline began shipping oil to refineries outside of St. Louis in 2010, Girling noted. That section of the pipeline system is about the same length of pipe as Keystone XL, carries the same type of oil and also crosses the U.S.-Canada border, yet that project just 21 months to study and approve.

“After more than 2,000 days, five exhaustive environmental reviews and over 17,000 pages of scientific data Keystone XL continues to languish,” he said about the long delayed project. “Our Keystone pipeline has safely delivered more than 600 million barrels of crude oil to U.S. refineries, replacing foreign off-shore oil.”

Girling insisted that the Nebraska routing litigation was being handled appropriately and should not affect National Interest Determination process that is currently under way.

On Feb. 19, Nebraska’s Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy declared the 2012 law used to reroute the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska was unconstitutional, ruling that the law improperly gave Gov. Dave Heineman authority to approve the pipeline route, when the Nebraska Public Service Commission was supposed to have regulatory control over the project.

TransCanada has appealed the Nebraska court decision, and the Keystone XL re-route in Nebraska that was evaluated by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and approved by the governor remains in effect.

“It is unfortunate that interest groups and paid activists are blocking energy security, saying no to jobs and creating a situation that actually leads to higher GHG’s and greater public risk,” he said. “Canadian oil will make its way to market with or without Keystone XL. It is in everyone’s best interests that this project move forward.”

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