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US lobbyists plead Keystone XL case

House Republicans, unions, and industry associations are pressuring the government

REPUBLICANS in the US House of Representatives, labour unions, and oil and gas industry associations are pressuring the government to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Robert Johnston, director global energy and natural resources with the Eurasia Group, said the Candian and the Alberta governments should do a better job of supporting its allies in Washington, where a 'knife fight' is being waged with environmental groups that are 'out in full force'.

Although confident the XL pipeline system 'which would carry 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) of oil-sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Texas refineries' will be approved, he said the federal and provincial governments, as well as the industry, need to spearhead Canada's case for pipeline safety and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Johnston said that advocacy role should include Alberta's plans to create conservation areas in the Lower Athabasca oil-sands region and a pledge by Canada's environment minister, Peter Kent, to introduce emissions regulations this year for the oil-sands sector.

Led by Republicans, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is debating a bill to require a final decision by President Barack Obama on Keystone XL no later than 1 November.

Democrats against

But Democrats on the committee argued the XL pipeline could raise gasoline prices in the US Midwest by redirecting crude to the Gulf coast, as well as being harmful to the environment by encouraging development of the oil sands. Democratic representative Henry Waxman said the Obama administration 'should not be ramrodded by Congress to approve a boondoggle for the oil industry'.

The bill is expected to have easy passage through the committee before going to the House floor for a vote.

Lobbying efforts in support of XL received an added push this month from the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said US jobs stemming from oil-sands development could grow from 21,000 today to 465,000 in 2035.

API executive director Marty Durbin said that after two years of analysis and review, it is time for the US government to focus on job creation and 'strengthening our relationship with America's number one source of imported oil: Canada'. He said 1,000 businesses in 47 states already provide, services, materials and equipment to the oil sands sector.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's pipelines president, said the benefits the company's Keystone XL pipeline are clear, but 'time is of the essence to receive the approvals we need to move forward'.

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