Former State Dept. official: Clinton will approve Keystone XL

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton probably will approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Canadian oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries, a former senior State Department energy official predicts.

The onetime international energy affairs head, David Goldwyn, told Platts Energy Week that the Keystone XL pipeline approval is likely, given the State Department’s determination that the project would not have major environmental effects and that there would be “no significant impacts to most resources” along the planned 1,700-mile route.

In a final environmental impact statement released Friday, the State Department also said that the Keystone XL was a better option than alternatives and that potential spills from the pipeline “would likely be limited.”

In releasing the lengthy document, the State Department kicked off a 90-day period for federal agencies to evaluate whether the project is in the “national interest.” Although Clinton will make that final national interest determination, but environmentalists who oppose the project say ultimately, the decision rests in President Barack Obama’s hands.

In an interview with Platts’ weekly energy show, taped before the environmental assessment was released, Goldwyn said Clinton is on track to say yes.

“Balancing jobs, energy security (and) a country which has increased production, potentially the size of Libya, I think the case for the pipeline is overwhelming and she’ll approve it,” said Goldwyn.

Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, stressed that more assessments need to be done, including an analysis of how approving or rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline would affect national security and the economy.

Environmentalists said the State Department’s analysis was insulting and incomplete — and fails to consider the real costs on Gulf Coast communities that will refine more of the oil sands crude from Canada if the pipeline wins final approval.

They also say the government has given short shrift to the potentially higher greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian oil sands crude, which some analyses suggest can be 40 percent more than those of conventional oil. Although oil companies are increasingly using less-invasive in situ techniques to extract the tar-like hydrocarbon bitumen from deeply buried oil sands, it has traditionally been removed through open pit mining.

Oil industry leaders and congressional Republicans argue that Keystone XL is essential to deliver crude from a friendly North American ally to refineries on the Gulf Coast that are not served by existing pipelines. Current pipelines transport the Canadian oil sands crude to Midwest refineries, which are nearing their capacity for processing the supply.