Officials from the Canadian government expressed frustration on June 11 over the U.S. government’s continued delay of a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver and other high-ranking ministers denounced the Obama administration’s slow movement around the TransCanada Corporation’s $5.4 billion project. Oliver said he and other Canadian officials were in New York to keep the issue alive with the U.S. public and business.
“This is a democracy, and I’m sure the government listens to the people,” Oliver said in an interview at the New York headquarters of the news agency Bloomberg.
On Apr. 18, the U.S. State Department announced that it would delay its decision on the northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline until after a Nebraska court ruling concerning the project.
“It’s not going to vanish as a business issue for those who are going to be directly impacted” in the U.S., Oliver said. “There’s a real sense this is a very unhappy delay.”
The Nebraska Supreme Court must decide whether Gov. Dave Heineman had legal authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in that state. Landowners along the route brought suit against the state and won their case in a lower court, which ruled that the approval must come from the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an agency established in the 19th century during the appropriation of lands for railroads.
“The entire reason to have a Public Service Commission is to avoid public favors to carriers,” said Dave Domina, the attorney representing landowners opposed to the pipeline. “It was created in 1885 to avoid political favors to railroads and the same idea applies here.”
The northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline would transport tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to southeastern Nebraska. It requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border. The southern leg, which runs from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast, is already operative.
If the State Department waits on the Nebraska case, that could push the decision until after the November 2014 mid-term elections, possibly as far ahead as early 2015.
The issue has been a difficult one for elected officials and political candidates. Most Republicans in federal government support the project, though libertarian elements in the party’s base question the projects appropriation of private land. Many Democrats in Washington and elsewhere oppose Keystone XL for environmental reasons, though many other support the project for reasons of economic development.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the U.S. was deliberately stalling on Keystone for political reasons.
“(The delay) is an affront in no uncertain terms,” Baird said. “It’s inconsistent with the principles that have helped our relationship at least economically evolve, and in that sense it’s quite disruptive.”
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew attended a June 11 meeting in New York with Canadian officials as well as an international contingent from various petroleum-producing companies.
“I simply can’t believe we won’t get this done because the stakes are too high,” Oliver said.