UPDATE 4-U.S. review gives boost to Keystone oil pipeline

Fri Mar 1, 2013 8:07pm EST
 
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - The Keystone XL oil pipeline got a boost on Friday when the U.S. State Department said the project would not likely change the rate at which Canada's oil sands are developed, discounting warnings from environmentalists that it would lead to a spike in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report is far from the last word on Keystone. The environmental assessment must be finalized after the public comment. Federal agencies will then have 90 days to work with the State Department to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, with U.S. President Barack Obama ultimately able to approve or block the project.

TransCanada Corp's proposed project is "unlikely to have a substantial impact" on development of Alberta's oil sands, the world's third-richest oil deposit, the State Department said in a long-awaited report of more than 2,000 pages. It said the pipeline would result in "no substantial change in global greenhouse gas emissions."

The more than 800,000 barrel per day pipeline would have little environmental impact on most resources along its proposed route, provided the company takes certain measures to make it safer, the review added.

Supporters of the project, which would bring oil to Texas refineries, have dismissed concerns it would lead to additional greenhouse gas emissions, saying the oil would reach markets regardless of whether the pipeline is built.

Obama rejected the pipeline in 2011 on concerns about its route through ecologically sensitive regions of Nebraska and after several high-profile spills on lines carrying Canadian crude.

Subsequently, TransCanada issued a new route for the pipeline, which Friday's assessment took into consideration.   Continued...