A Canadian company's plan to pipe oil from Alberta to the Texas coast is not likely to cause significant environmental problems during construction or operation, the State Department said Friday in a new report that removes a major roadblock to the 1,700-mile pipeline.
The thousand-page report on the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline says no significant problems have emerged since a similar report was issued last year.
Calgary-based TransCanada wants to build a massive pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. The pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada. Supporters say it could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
The project has become a flashpoint for environmental groups who say the pipeline would bring "dirty oil" that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and could cause an ecological disaster if there's a spill. They have urged the Obama administration to block the project as a show of good faith to supporters.
Several hundred activists, including actress Margot Kidder and prominent scientists, have been arrested in recent days in protests outside the White House.
TransCanada maintains that the project would create tens of thousands of jobs and would be built to strict environmental standards, including 57 conditions above those required by law.
For example, the company has agreed to build the pipeline 4 feet below ground, instead of 3 feet, and will allow an increased number of inspections. It also will install a greater number of safety shut-off valves than usual.
The State Department report cites those conditions as among the reasons for its confidence in the project.
The State Department report does not grant final approval. The department has authority over the project because it crosses an international boundary.