More pipelines than Keystone XL needed in US: Hastings

24 July 2013 23:26 Source:ICIS News

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Not only should the US build the Keystone XL pipeline connecting Canadian crude oil to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries, it should also consider more east-west pipelines to alleviate the growth in crude oil rail shipments, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee said on Wednesday.

Disasters such as the deadly 6 July train crash in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, speak to the need for more pipeline infrastructure, Representative Doc Hastings, (Republican-Washington), said during an interview at his US House office.

“When you transport something like that, you have more human error involved,” he said.

“Pipelines have proven themselves to be a very safe way to transport product,” Hastings added.

Pending since 2008, the 1,700-mile (2,700 km), $7bn (€5.3bn) Keystone XL project by TransCanada would involve building a 36-inch (90 cm) pipeline across five US states, bringing crude to refineries in the US Midwest as well as Texas and providing refined products to another half-dozen states.

The project is subject to US State Department approval because it crosses the US-Canada border, and it also falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

In January 2012, President Barack Obama rejected a Keystone XL approval mandate passed by Congress, saying that the decision on whether to give final approval to the project needed full consideration.

In the wake of that decision, a White House ruling on the pipeline had been expected sometime this year, once Obama was secure in his second and final term as president.

News reports earlier this year said the decision may be delayed until early 2014, although oil industry officials still expect a verdict by the end of this year.

If Obama approves the construction of Keystone XL, it will anger many environmentalists who have railed upon the possible carbon footprint of producing, transporting and refining heavy tar sands crude. It also will irritate those who point to the 29 March ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, as an example of the environmental dangers posed by pipelines.

Hastings said that overall, pipelines are a much safer method of oil transportation than by rail.

“Nothing is 100% fail-safe, for goodness sakes. ... If you have something to transport a product that is fixed, rather than moving, logic would only suggest that the fixed system is going to be safer,” he said.

The chairman would not proffer a prediction on what verdict Obama will render on Keystone XL but did say that the president will keep his political allies in mind while formulating a decision.

“He is more beholden to the environmental left than to other parts of his political bases,” Hastings said.

Additional reporting by Joe Kamalick

($1 = €0.76)

By Jeremy Pafford