Republicans fear uncertain scope of Keystone study

Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:24pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton and Scott Haggett

WASHINGTON/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The scope of a planned environmental review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada could go beyond a small disputed portion in Nebraska and threatens to delay the project further, its Republican backers in Congress said on Friday.

The State Department asked on Friday for public comments by the end of July to help determine the scope of an environmental review ordered earlier this year for the controversial pipeline. The review is designed to supplement a "final" environmental impact report issued last August.

Republicans suggested the State Department request could expand the review beyond an 88-mile (140-km) portion of the route through Nebraska that has been altered because of environmental concerns.

"In essence they're saying, 'OK, now we're going to start all over again,'" Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, said in an interview.

"Who knows how long it's going to take them?" said Hoeven, who has championed efforts in Congress to get fast-track approval for the project.

TransCanada Corp's pipeline was designed to carry crude from Canada's oilsands and from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota and Montana to Texas refineries.

After four years of environmental reviews, and months of high-profile protests from environmental groups, President Barack Obama put a hold on the project in January.

Obama said concerns raised by Nebraska, where the pipeline was initially proposed to go over a sensitive aquifer, warranted additional study, although he did allow the southernmost leg of the pipeline to go ahead.   Continued...