Canada maneuvers to regain Keystone pipeline advantage in face of fierce criticism – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – February 16, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

 WASHINGTON — It will be a lively President’s Day long weekend for the folks here at the Canadian embassy.

As many as 20,000 environmental activists are expected to march on the White House on Sunday to demand the death of Keystone XL, and embassy staff plan to be on the sidelines to hear what’s said up the street on Pennsylvania Avenue and do their own count of the protesters.

It’s part of their focus on the facts on the consuming issue that has risen to the top of their priorities. In the first major anti-Keystone XL march in August 2011, headlined by celebrities like Daryl Hannah, environmentalists claimed a throng of 10,000 showed up, embassy staff counted 4,000. In another rally last November, protesters claimed 5,000 followers, the embassy counted 3,000.

The exaggeration is typical of the theatre surrounding the Canadian heavy oil pipeline project, targeted by the U.S. environmental movement to make a point about the need to get off fossil fuels — particularly those from the oil sands — and accelerate the adoption of green energy to reduce climate change.

But for many Canadians here who have been defending the pipeline from Alberta to Texas, the oil sands industry and Canada’s environmental record, the really important development is still to come, and they hope that’s where the facts will prevail.

The State Department is expected to release a draft supplemental environmental impact statement any day now.

“It likely sets the tone,” said an embassy source who asked to remain anonymous. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

After more than four years of review said to be the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline project in history, the statement is one of the final steps toward a national interest determination on the project by President Barack Obama, which is expected in the June-to-September timeframe.

The Canadian team — headed by Ambassador Gary Doer, including Alberta’s newly appointed representative David Manning, and a legion of industry and government lobbyists and supporters — remains optimistic because it’s confident the facts are on Canada’s side. They include:

A tight regulatory case Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. first applied for approval of the project on Sept. 19, 2008. A first environmental impact statement for the State Department made public on Aug. 26, 2011, found the pipeline would not have significant environmental impacts.

President Obama delayed the project on Nov. 10, 2011, 74 days into a national interest determination, because of concerns the pipeline would cross the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills area and the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska.

When he rejected the project on Jan. 18, 2012, the president said it was in response to a Republican effort to speed up the process, which could not be done while the review of the Nebraska route was under way.

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