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TransCanada Corp. could develop a rail bridge from Canada to Nebraska if the northern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline continues to be held up by the U.S. government, president and CEO Russ Girling said Tuesday.
The Calgary-based company has ongoing dialogue with railways and oil companies about options to Keystone, and “if we need to bridge with rail, we will bridge,” Mr. Girling said in an interview.
“I don’t think we would ever stop pressing the pipeline option, but there is a point in time at which we would consider a rail option,” he said. The company is awaiting the release any day of a much-delayed final environmental impact statement by the U.S. State Department on the $5.4-billion, northern leg of the cross-border project to carry oil from Canada’s oil sands all the way to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
The department has jurisdiction because the pipeline crosses an international border. The southern leg, known as the Gulf Coast Project, was fast tracked because it didn’t need approval and is due to start delivering oil on Jan. 22.
A Canadian regulatory panel is scheduled to release a recommendation on the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast on Thursday. Northern Gateway was proposed by Enbridge Inc., TransCanada’s rival. The two projects are a big part of Canada’s push to open markets for Canada’s growing oil production.
Mr. Girling expects the U.S. review, now in its sixth year, to show the northern leg of the project will have minimal environmental impact. A draft of the statement released in March came to the same conclusion.
The final document’s release triggers a 90-day national interest determination that could lead to a final decision by U.S.President Barack Obama as soon as the end of the first quarter, Mr. Girling said.
While continuing to hope for a permit, Mr. Girling said he fears the project, turned by the U.S. environmental movement into a symbolic test on whether the U.S.President is serious about fighting climate change, will once again get caught up in politics.
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