Big-name celebs irk Ottawa in pipeline debate

Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:55pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's energy minister shot back on Friday at Hollywood celebrities protesting a plan to build a $7 billion oil pipeline to Texas from Alberta in the first public indication that the protests are getting under Ottawa's skin.

Joe Oliver, the minister in charge of energy, said increasingly vocal critics opposing the project on environmental grounds may become a threat to his government's plans to cement Canada as the dominant North American energy supplier.

"Criticism of the oil sands - and now the proposed Keystone XL pipeline - is a major concern for us, with implications for our energy industry, our economy and our energy security," Oliver told a business audience in Toronto.

Actors Daryl Hannah and Mark Ruffalo, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, "No Logo" author Naomi Klein, as well as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu are among notables who have come out against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Hannah was one of more than 1,200 people arrested in protests against Keystone XL at the White House in August and September. Another anti-oil sands demonstration is planned for Ottawa on September 26, and a host of Canadian actors, including Gordon Pinsent and Dave Thomas, have said they back the cause.

Still, Oliver insisted he does not believe that protests will derail development of the pipeline.

"I remain optimistic about the ultimate decision that the government of the United States will make in the national interest, as they see it," he told reporters at the event. "But we don't presume to interfere with their permit processing."

In his speech, Oliver listed several initiatives the oil industry and the government have undertaken to improve environmental performance in the Alberta oil sands, including reclaiming land and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   Continued...