State Department Expected to Affirm Oil Pipeline Safety

Thursday, 25 Aug 2011 11:47 AM

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The State Department is expected to affirm that a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas will have limited environmental impact. The announcement, which could come as early as Friday, will remove a major roadblock and force President Barack Obama to choose between environmentalists and unions, sources tell The Washington Post.

One more evaluation is needed before permits for the Keystone XL pipeline can be issued. The State Department must determine whether the project is in the “national interest” — a determination should come by the end of the year, the Post reported.

The pipeline can transport 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s tar sands fields in Alberta. The project and the extraction of oil from the tar sands have prompted protests across the country and in front of the White House.

“This is the primary test for Obama and the environment in the period between now and the election,” Bill McKibben — who co-founded the advocacy group and spent two nights in jail after being arrested Saturday at the protest — told the Post. “This is his chance to do something on his own, without interference from Congress.”

However, project advocates, including unions representing plumbers and pipe fitters, argue the project will employ thousands in the United States.

“It’s a job engine for the country at a time when we need the jobs, and until we do something else, we need the oil,” William Hite, general president of the union United Association, told the Post. “I don’t see how we can turn it down.”

State Department officials have spent months looking into such issues as groundwater and pipeline safety, whether the project would bring about more tar sands extraction, and whether oil shipped through it to the United States would ultimately be exported overseas.

The results did not change the department’s earlier assessment, sources told the Post.


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