Union claims Keystone XL's Canadian permit expired

Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:08am EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada's energy regulator said on Wednesday it is looking into a complaint that TransCanada Corp's permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline within its own borders has expired, adding the prospect of more delays to a project environmentalists hope to block.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which opposes the $7 billion oil pipeline to Texas from Alberta, contends TransCanada had not begun construction of the project by March 11, 2011, as spelled out in the permit the National Energy Board granted in March 2010.

Start-up of Keystone XL has been delayed by about a year by an extended review by the U.S. State Department amid a growing political debate in the United States on the pipeline's merits. The State Department is not expected to release its decision until the end of 2011.

The NEB has requested that TransCanada respond by October 14. The union - the largest for Canadian energy workers - will then have until October 21 to react.

"Essentially the board is looking at it, asking for comments from TransCanada and CEP. Once they have that in front of them they will look at it and decide the next steps," board spokeswoman Tara O'Donovan said.

The CEP contends the pipeline, which would ship up to 700,000 barrels of oil sands-derived crude to Texas from Alberta, will prevent the creation of jobs that would come with building oil sands processing facilities within Canada.

It is also critical of the impact of tar sands development on the environment and aboriginal communities, its president, Dave Coles, said.

Coles questioned what it said is an assertion by TransCanada that it started construction by moving earth near the massive oil storage hub at Hardisty, Alberta.   Continued...