Keystone XL's builder faced darkening prospects

Tue Nov 3, 2015 2:25am EST
 
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By Bruce Wallace

Nov 3 (Reuters) - Faced with dimming prospects for approval, the Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline chose to plead with the U.S. government for a delay on its fate, signaling that prolonged uncertainty is preferable to rejection of the $8 billion project.

Monday's appeal by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp has been widely interpreted as an attempt to avert an impending "no" from President Barack Obama to the nearly 1,200-mile (2,000-km) cross-border pipeline. Keystone XL would carry heavy crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska and on to Gulf Coast refineries, and has become the symbolic heart of a struggle between environmentalists opposed to oil sands development and defenders of fossil fuels.

The U.S. State Department said it had received a letter from TransCanada asking for the delay but a spokesperson said the review would continue for now.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company would not speculate on what the decision may be or when it may come.

But the Obama administration has become more vocal and active on climate change issues as it closes in on its final year in office, and the president has repeatedly expressed doubts about the merits of the pipeline.

TransCanada's request for a delay came amid a darkening political outlook for the project on both sides of the border.

In Nebraska, the company remains embroiled in time-consuming disputes with landowners over the proposed pipeline route. And in Canada, it lost a powerful advocate in October when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had openly allied with Republican leaders in his aggressive lobbying for Keystone, was defeated by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

Although Trudeau has offered cautious backing for Keystone, he has also warned that both the pipeline and wider oil sands development must demonstrate improved environmental sensitivity.   Continued...