Keystone XL pipeline project primed for Obama’s approval, ambassador says – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – January 31, 2014)

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

As anticipation builds over the imminent release of two major reports that could seal the fate of Keystone XL pipeline, Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, remains confident the long-delayed project is primed for presidential approval.

“I think the president is going to make the decision on the basis of science and facts, and if he does that, that means it goes ahead,” the former Manitoba premier said in an interview Thursday.

CNN reported that the final environmental impact review will likely to be announced on Friday afternoon, citing two senior administration officials and another unidentified source familiar with the timing.

Once the results are out, eight U.S. agencies will examine them, then send their observations to Secretary of State John Kerry. President Barack Obama would then decide whether or not to approve the pipeline.

A final decision may not come for several months, but this study is seen as a critical step in determining whether the project will go ahead.

The science and facts are expected to tilt in favour of the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline with the conclusion of a review by the U.S. State Department’s inspector general into allegations of conflicts of interest and the release of a final environmental impact statement.

While little talked about, Doer said the inspector general’s report is “crucial” and a finding of conflict of interest would have serious implications for the proposed project.

But Doer, who has led Canada’s efforts to win a permit for the $7-billion project that would open the Gulf Coast as a market for Canadian oil, believes “the allegations will fall like a house of cards.”

The review was launched after KXL opponent Friends of the Earth alleged that London-based Environmental Resources Management (ERM), which the state department hired to assess the impact of the pipeline, is in conflict of interest with Keystone’s owner TransCanada Corp. and other oil companies.

It’s the second time the inspector general has investigated allegations made by Keystone XL opponents. The first set, that TransCanada exercised improper influence, was dismissed in February, 2012.

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