Keystone pipeline hearing draws supporters, few critics

Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:23am EDT
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By Kristen Hays

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (Reuters) - Supporters outnumbered critics at a government-sponsored hearing on the proposed TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline that would ship oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Monday's hearing in Port Arthur was the first of several public hearings to be held regarding the pipeline, which has already raised large protests in Canada and the United States.

Opponents say the $7 billion project will threaten an important U.S. water supply, while supporters say it will bring needed jobs and lessen reliance on foreign oil.

Monday's hearing was in Port Arthur, Texas, and supporters easily outnumbered opponents as nearly 500 people crammed into a community building after many stood outside in the heat.

Port Arthur and the surrounding area is energy-friendly, home to three major oil refineries, natural gas processing plants and other energy infrastructure. Comments at Monday's meeting echoed those of supporters beforehand, touting job creation in hard times.

"The world looks to us for support, well, this is the time to take care of ourselves," said Craig McNair, the top official in nearby Liberty County, and one of a string of supporters.

Following an extensive review that suggested the line posed little environmental risk, the U.S. State Department started the hearings, which may be one of the last chances for opponents to voice objections to a project that has already experienced several delays.

Critics, which have included celebrities like actors Daryl Hannah and Margot Kidder, say the line will encourage more production of carbon-intensive oil sands and will threaten a major aquifer along the route to the U.S. Gulf Coast.   Continued...