Keystone XL —- Supporters Press For Speedy Approval

Republicans make ‘urgent case’ for TransCanada’s Keystone. The debate about TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP-T39.550.240.61%) Keystone XL pipeline flared on Capitol Hill on Thursday, where the project’s political supporters used the turmoil in North Africa to press their case for speedy approval. Connie Mack, the Florida Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, wasted little time declaring which side he was on – that of his friendly neighbour to the north. Mr. Mack used his opening remarks to extol the benefits of a project that he said would create “tens of thousands of jobs,” while dismissing the concerns of some Americans about the environmental impact of oil sands production. He said Canada has the right to extract its oil however it sees fit. His vigorous defence of TransCanada’s plan to build a pipeline that would ship 500,000 barrels of Northern Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas will be cheered by many in Canada. However, the hearing was a poor gauge of sentiment in Washington toward the project. At the height of attendance, six of 10 subcommittee members were in the room, barely outnumbering the four panelists invited to give expert testimony. A few committee members made statements and left without asking questions of the witnesses. By the end of the 90-minute session, only Mr. Mack and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Eliot Engel from the Bronx area of New York, remained present. The fate of TransCanada’s bid is in the hands of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose department currently is reviewing the proposal. The Keystone pipeline, which would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of drinking water for eight states, is opposed by environmentalists, landowners in places such as Nebraska and Oklahoma, and scores of municipal, state and federal politicians. Three of four Democrats showed up for the hearing, called “Rising Oil Prices and Dependence on Hostile Regimes: The Urgent Case for Canadian Oil.” Mr. Engel said he was keeping an open mind about the pipeline, but fully backs the State Department’s decision to do a thorough review. Albio Sires of New Jersey indicated that he had recently set aside environmental concerns and was now in favour of the project as a way to lower U.S. oil prices. Donald Payne, also from New Jersey, expressed worries over the environmental impact of the pipeline. All the Republicans who at least made an appearance at the hearing endorsed Keystone. “Let’s get the permitting done quickly,” said Jean Schmidt from Ohio. The witnesses offered nothing new on a debate that has become polarized as a choice between national security or the environment. A man from the World Wildlife Federation presented photographs from Fort McMurray, Alta., visual evidence for what he called the environmental destruction wrought by the production of the world’s most expensive oil. He was outnumbered by a trio of policy analysts and academics, who made the case that the more oil the U.S. buys from Canada, the less it is at the mercy of hostile nations such as Venezuela and Iran. The subcommittee’s most powerful member appeared content to have his point of view reinforced. Mr. Mack was preoccupied throughout the hearing by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader, who he described repeatedly as a “thugocrat.” Said Mr. Mack: “If we continue to buy from Hugo Chavez, we continue to support a dictator who is intent on destroying our way of life.” ((31 MAR 2011))




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