President Obama's former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar says he thinks the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada should be built, calling it a “win-win” project despite the objections of environmentalists.
Salazar expressed approval of the pipeline during an address at an energy conference Wednesday. His comments were first reported by industry blog FuelFix.com and were later confirmed by Fox News.
“At the end of the day, we are going to be consuming that oil,” Salazar told the conference. “So is it better for us to get the oil from our good neighbor from the north, or to be bringing it from some place in the Middle East?”
The former U.S. senator also released a statement later Wednesday saying,"It would be in the national interest to build the pipeline for our energy security, and enhance that national interest with the preservation of the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area and the Prairie Potholes Region. In so doing, the carbon sequestration functions of these conservation areas will be preserved, wildlife and ranching heritage is supported, and energy security is enhanced."
Salazar also said that he believes the project could be constructed safely if the right conditions are met. These would include requiring that the pipeline operator meet tough environmental standards and possibly even paying for conservation programs along the pipeline route.
Salazar later told The Associated Press he believes the project is a “win-win” for both conservation efforts and U.S. energy security.
When asked about Salazar’s comments at a press briefing Wednesday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama intends to let the process run its course and that there have been efforts to politicize the project. He said the president believes natural gas is an important part of America’s future, but that the government needs to ensure it is as safe and secure as possible.
Salazar's comments follow a State Department report last week that raised no major environmental objections to the $7 billion pipeline. The pipeline would carry oil from western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Salazar also said at the conference that he believes hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is “safe” and poses no threat to the public. Fracking involves the fracturing of rock with pressurized liquid to free oil and natural gas unreachable through conventional drilling, and the practice is controversial due to concerns it could harm the environment.
Salazar said it is up to the oil and gas industries to inform the public about its safety.
“We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone,” Salazar said. “We need to make sure that story is told.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report