Canada PM touts Keystone pipeline in U.S., says must be approved

Thu May 16, 2013 3:54pm EDT
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By David Sheppard

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper turned into a pitch man for TransCanada Corp's (TRP.TO: Quote) Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday, telling a New York audience the project is so important that Washington has to approve it.

President Barack Obama is under pressure from environmental groups to veto the northern section of the proposed $5.3 billion pipeline, which would take crude from the Alberta tar sands in Western Canada to refineries in Texas.

Harper's trip was the latest in a series of visits to the United States by senior Canadian politicians to sell the merits of Keystone. Obama is expected to make a decision on the pipeline late this year.

"I think this absolutely needs to go ahead," Harper said during an hour-long question-and-answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Ottawa says Keystone XL would help overcome capacity restrictions facing Canadian pipelines and ease a supply glut, both of which have cut the price for oil sands crude.

Harper said the pipeline would create 40,000 U.S. jobs during its lifetime and reduce U.S. dependence on suppliers such as Venezuela.

"I think all the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval of this, but there is a process in the United States," he said. "The process is subject to - as is everything in this country - to massive potential litigation on either side, so I know the administration will do a thorough analysis before arriving at the right decision."

The southern half of the pipeline, from Texas to Oklahoma, is more than halfway built. The northern section needs State Department approval because it crosses an international border.   Continued...

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton