COLUMN-Keystone XL double standard: Tale of 2 pipelines: Campbell

Wed May 22, 2013 9:50am EDT
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By Robert Campbell

NEW YORK May 22 (Reuters) - A casual observer familiar with the Keystone XL saga would think the United States was making it very hard to build any oil sands-related pipelines. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

While TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL is mired in seemingly endless studies, a competing project that could carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil sands crude to U.S. refineries every day is sailing through its own regulatory review.

Why the double standard? It's well known that Keystone XL is a cause celebre for environmentalists who see defeating the pipeline as a way to halt the development of Canada's oil sands in the name of slowing climate change.

But what is really hurting Keystone XL is the lack of a serious U.S. greenhouse gas policy and the need to go through a far more stringent regulatory process than other projects.

Consider the plan hatched by gas-focused pipeline group Energy Transfer Partners LP and Enbridge Inc, the top shipper of oil sands crude, to convert part of ETP's Trunkline natural gas pipeline to oil service by 2015.

ETP must first get the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to remove Trunkline from service, a formal procedure known as abandonment. Part of this process is a environmental assessment. That study was published quietly in April and comment from the public closes on Wednesday.

The word "climate" appears only five times in the Trunkline environmental assessment, largely in a single paragraph where climate change is dismissed as a significant factor that needs to be considered in the scope of the review.   Continued...