Voting majority backs Keystone XL pipeline, poll finds

WASHINGTON — The oil industry has spent years working to convince lawmakers and the American public that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline means more energy and more jobs for the U.S.

But it looks like the sales pitch hasn’t been a complete success.

A Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday found that 56 percent of likely voters believe the pipeline will “be good for the U.S. economy.”

The same telephone survey also found that 57 percent of likely U.S. voters at least somewhat favor building the pipeline, including 32 percent who strongly favor the project.

Transcanada chief: Obama will approve Keystone XL pipeline (video)

Some industry-backed surveys have registered a higher level of support for the pipeline, which would transport up to 900,000 barrels a day of crude from Alberta, Canada to the oil hub in Cushing, Okla. There it would connect with a recently completed TransCanada Corp. pipeline sending supplies to Gulf Coast refineries.

TransCanada expects that southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline to begin shipping oil this month.

Meanwhile, the northern, border-crossing pipeline is under review at the State Department, which is tasked with deciding whether it is in the “national interest,” under a 2004 executive order.

Overall, support for the pipeline has remained relatively consistent in recent years, even after another pipeline ruptured in Arkansas and after critics have launched high-profile campaigns against the project.

Matt Dempsey, with Oil Sands Fact Check, says the Rasmussen poll shows “that the well-funded efforts by opponents are simply not registering with the public.”

“The needle hasn’t moved much, despite lots of spending, especially by opponents over the past year,” Dempsey said.

At least three surveys by Rasmussen Reports last year documented similar levels of support, generally in the 56 to 60 percent range.

“Poll after poll continues to show that a majority of Americans want to build Keystone XL,” said API spokeswoman Sabrina Fang. “The president should listen to the people and say yes to the thousands of jobs and enhanced energy security Keystone XL would bring.”

The Obama administration could make its final decision on whether to permit the border-crossing Keystone XL pipeline this year, after the State Department issues its final environmental analysis and, later, decides whether the project is in the national interest. Other federal agencies also have a chance to weigh in on the decision.

Environment: Keystone XL foes want focus on spill clean up

Obama vowed in June that Keystone XL will only win approval if it does not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The State Department’s final environmental analysis is expected to delve deep into the question of whether Keystone XL will spur dramatic growth in the development of Canadian oil sands, by providing a critical link to Gulf Coast refineries.

Separately, the State Department’s inspector general is investigating whether the company contracted to perform the analysis, Environmental Resource Management, misrepresented its past work on other projects for TransCanada. The probe could be finished in February, and, depending on the findings, could stoke calls for a redo of the entire analysis.

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20 people you didn’t know oppose the Keystone XL pipeline