WASHINGTON — The Canadian company that wants to build the disputed Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. submitted a new application for the project Friday after changing the route to avoid environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska.
TransCanada said it applied again to the U.S. government for permission to build the pipeline to carry oil from so-called tar sands in western Canada to a company hub in Steele City, Neb. From there the project would link up with other pipelines operated by the company to carry oil to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
President Barack Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over the Nebraska route — a decision that drew fire from Republicans. TransCanada initially proposed a new route last month that would veer east around the groundwater-rich Sandhills region before looping back to the original route.
State Department approval is needed because the $7 billion pipeline would cross a U.S. border.
“The multi-billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline project will reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil and support job growth by putting thousands of Americans to work,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. “Keystone XL will transport U.S. crude oil from the very large Bakken supply basin in Montana and North Dakota, along with Canadian oil, to U.S. refineries.”
“Our application for a Presidential Permit builds on more than three years of environmental review already conducted for Keystone XL,” Girling added. “It was the most comprehensive process ever for a cross-border pipeline and that work should allow our cross border permit to be processed expeditiously and a decision made once a new route in Nebraska is determined.”
In blocking the pipeline in January, Obama said there was not enough time for a fair review before a looming deadline forced on him by congressional Republicans. The action did not kill the project but put off a tough choice on the once-obscure pipeline, which has become a flashpoint in a bitter partisan political fight over jobs and the environment and a focus of the presidential campaign.
Ironically, the filing came on the same day that the Labor Department released a report with mixed blessings for U.S. job growth. Although the overall jobless rate slipped to 8.1 percent, new hiring wasn’t as brisk as many analysts had predicted and was more modest than in the first couple months of the year.
Pipeline supporters, including Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and GOP congressional leaders, call the project an important job creator and have called on Obama to support it. Many business and labor leaders also back the pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma, in addition to Nebraska.
Opponents, including Democrats and environmental groups, say the pipeline would transport “dirty oil” from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, that requires huge amounts of energy to extract. They also worry about a possible spill.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill last month that allows the state to proceed with its review of the proposed pipeline through his state, regardless of what happens at the federal level.
A senior State Department official said U.S. officials would conduct a thorough review of the new application, with a final decision not expected until early next year — well after the presidential election.
Officials will use previous studies to the extent possible, the official said, but will need to complete a new environmental assessment, especially since the route has changed since TransCanada first applied for the pipeline in 2008.
The State Department review is likely to include hiring an outside consultant, a point of contention in the original review conducted by the agency. Democratic lawmakers complained that the firm that conducted the review, Cardno Entrix, had a conflict of interest because of previous work with TransCanada.
The department’s acting inspector general found no conflict of interest or improper political influence but said the State Department could have done a better job evaluating some concerns about the project and should improve its oversight of contractors.MORE IN World/National BusinessNEW YORK — This summer, high rollers are flying to lavish hot spots for their vacations. Full Story
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