U.S. to hold meetings in heartland over Canada oil pipe

Mon Jun 6, 2011 9:01pm EDT
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a proposed $7 billion pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands petroleum to refiners in Texas faces local opposition, the State Department will hold public meetings in five states the line would travel through before it decides whether the project can go forward.

The State Department, which hopes to decide whether to grant TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL line a so-called "presidential permit" before the end of the year, said on Monday it would hold public meetings in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas as well as a meeting in Washington, D.C.

The meetings would be held within 30 days after the department makes issues a final environmental impact statement on the line.

"These meetings will give the public an opportunity to voice their views on economic, energy security, environmental and safety issues, in addition to any other issues the public thinks should be taken into account in determining whether granting or denying the Presidential Permit would be in the national interest," the State Department said in a release.

The Department was forced to issue a supplemental review of the 700,000 barrels per day pipeline in April after the Environmental Protection Agency complained an initial report did not adequately assess risks to water tables, output of greenhouse gases from production of oil sands petroleum, and alternative routes.

Leaders in Nebraska and other states in the U.S. heartland have complained the proposed line would be built over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast, but shallow water table farmers depend on to irrigate a large swath of U.S. crops.

The opposition to the Keystone XL has intensified after two spills last month on the original line, known simply as the Keystone pipeline.

The comment period on the State Department's supplemental review ended on Monday and a spokeswoman there said some 8,000 comments on the line were received.   Continued...