Greens ask U.S. to delay Keystone decision after Arkansas leak

Mon Apr 8, 2013 7:24pm EDT
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Environmental groups on Monday asked the Obama administration to extend the approval process of the Keystone XL pipeline, using last month's spill of heavy Canadian crude oil in Arkansas as their latest reason to delay the project.

The Obama administration is deciding whether to approve the Canada-to-Nebraska leg of TransCanada Corp's proposed pipeline, which would link Canada's oil sands, the world's third richest crude oil deposit, to refineries in Texas.

The State Department, which issued a draft environmental assessment of the $5.3 billion project on March 1, indicated then that a final decision could come by July or August.

The assessment is now in a 45-day public comment period that runs through April 22. Then the administration has 90 days to decide whether the project is in the national interest.

Leading green groups, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and, asked the agency to prolong the comment period to 120 days after a pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of Canadian crude in a suburban neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas in late March.

The State Department did not immediately respond to the request for comment about the letter.

Exxon Mobil Corp's Pegasus pipeline, which runs from Illinois to Texas and can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day, remains shut after 22 homes were evacuated as a result of the oil-spill.

"A 45-day comment period ... is entirely inappropriate in light of so many unanswered questions surrounding the Mayflower disaster," the letter said. The 800,000 barrel per day Keystone pipeline would be far larger than Pegasus.   Continued...

Spilled crude oil is seen in a drainage ditch near Starlite Road in Mayflower, Arkansas March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jacob Slaton