Keystone pipeline faces new headwind – by Shawn Mccarthy and Nathan Vanderklippe (Globe and Mail – October 27, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA AND CALGARY— TransCanada Corp. faces new hurdles in its marathon race for approval of the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline, including a congressional demand for an investigation into the U.S. state department’s permitting process.

The Calgary-based pipeline giant is hoping to get the final nod from the Obama administration by the end of next month, but opponents continue to throw up obstacles both in Washington and in Nebraska, where the pipeline would cross environmentally sensitive terrain.

In a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama released Wednesday, Senator Bernard Sanders urged that no decision on the pipeline be made until an independent investigation into conflict of interest allegations can be completed by the state department’s Office of the Inspector General.

Saying there are “many serious concerns” about the process, the Vermont Democrat wrote that it is “critical that the American people have confidence that all the facts have been represented in an objective and unbiased manner,” and that the state department fully “complied with the letter and spirit” of the law.

TransCanada dismissed the concerns, saying the senator – and his 12 congressional co-signers – was merely recycling old and false allegations.

“This letter, along with many others, is part of a co-ordinated effort to stall a decision on whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline should receive a presidential permit to begin construction of this vital piece of North American energy infrastructure,” company spokesman Shawn Howard said in a statement.

“The real issue is does this proposed pipeline meet U.S. regulatory standards to be constructed and operated to deliver oil.”

The Keystone XL pipeline is crucial for TransCanada and the Canadian energy industry, providing an export conduit for Alberta’s oil sands. The pipeline is slated to transport some 700,000 barrels a day of oil sands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

In Nebraska, meanwhile, a new legal brief suggests the legislature has the legal authority to redirect the route Keystone XL would take through the state.

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