Brad Wall urges Obama to ‘swiftly’ approve Keystone pipeline – by Josh Wingrove (Globe and Mail – January 18, 2013)

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Edmonton — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is urging President Barack Obama to “swiftly” approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, issuing a letter signed by 10 state governors – but not Alberta’s premier.

Mr. Wall calls the energy relationship between Canada and the U.S. “vital to the future of both our countries.” He urges Mr. Obama, who will be formally inaugurated for his second term this weekend, to approve the proposed pipeline to create jobs while recognizing the governors’ and premiers’ commitment to “responsible stewardship” of the environment.

“Mr. President, we consider the Keystone XL pipeline fundamentally important to the future economic prosperity of both the United States and Canada,” Mr. Wall wrote. “We strongly urge you to issue a Presidential Permit and act swiftly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”

There are notable omissions among the letter’s signees, however. Those include Alberta Premier Alison Redford, a long-time advocate for the pipeline, and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, whose state has raised some of the most acute environmental concerns about the pipeline project.

The project would carry oil from Alberta, into Saskatchewan, through six U.S. states and down to the Gulf Coast. The signees on Mr. Wall’s letter include the governors from four of the six states Keystone XL would cross: South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The new governor of another state along the route, Montana’s Steve Bullock, intends to write his own letter. The state has been very supportive of the pipeline – Mr. Bullock’s predecessor, Brian Schweitzer, kept a sample of oil sands bitumen in a jar on his desk.

Nebraska, however, has been an outlier of sorts, and Mr. Heineman hasn’t signed this letter. It’s Nebraska where the proposed Keystone XL route has been redrawn to circumvent the state’s Ogallala Aquifer, an ecologically sensitive area.

A spokesman for Ms. Redford said the premier has “long championed opening new markets for Alberta oil, including projects like Keystone XL,” through several visits to the United States.

“Alberta’s position is well understood by President Obama’s administration, decision makers in Congress and Governors on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Redford’s spokesman, Stefan Baranski, said in an email. Asked why she didn’t sign Mr. Wall’s letter, the Mr. Baranski replied: “It’s not about any one letter. We welcome this letter as it supports Premier Redford’s longstanding efforts to open new markets for Alberta oil, including projects like Keystone XL.”

Mr. Wall said he didn’t want to waste any time in delivering a message to the president.

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