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Environment & Energy

Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Lobby Pushing for Keystone XL Pipeline

Pennsylvania oil and gas industry representatives gathered in Pittsburgh Wednesday to lament, rather than celebrate, the recent anniversary of the proposal of a very controversial project.

“Sept. 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the initial application that was submitted to the State Department for the Keystone XL pipeline project,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania. “This certainly is not an anniversary of celebration; it is an anniversary of delay.”

The Keystone XL pipeline, proposed in 2008 by Canadian oil and gas company TransCanada, would carry oil from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

The existing Keystone pipeline already runs from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, and branches off to Patoka, IL. The proposed northern leg of the Keystone XL would increase the capacity for channeling oil from Canada into the United States.

The southern leg of the Keystone XL, which runs from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, received earlier approval because it does not cross an international border. Reuters reported Wednesday that this portion of the pipeline is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Though the northern leg of the pipeline would not be constructed anywhere near Pennsylvania, Wissman said there is one big reason that Pennsylvanians should care about the issue.

“Energy security,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you live in this country; the Keystone XL project is an integral piece of the energy security that is a goal of all Americans.”

Wissman cited a 2010 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, or CERI, which found that Pennsylvania’s economy would benefit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“What they determined is that Pennsylvania’s GDP could increase by $74 million over five years after the approval of the pipeline,” Wissman said. “Looking forward down the road … 25 years, you’re looking at $3.9 billion.”

According to CERI’s website, it is an “independent, not-for-profit research establishment.” The organization’s board of directors is made up of representatives from the University of Calgary, the Alberta Department of Energy, and the oil and petroleum industries, though none of them are from TransCanada.

Environmental groups are opposed to the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Sierra Club says that the tar sands oil is more corrosive and consequently more dangerous if and when the pipeline springs a leak. According to the Rainforest Action Network, the processing of tar sands oil pumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other sources of oil.

Wissman said this argument is without merit.

“The Keystone XL project will have no impact on climate change, because the Canadian oil sands will be developed regardless of its construction,” Wissman said. “So whether or not this pipeline is built, the Canadian oil sands will be developed, and they will just look for other partners with this. They will look to other countries to develop this resource.”

Environmentalists argue that instead of pursuing tar sands oil, the U.S. and Canadian governments should work with energy companies to develop cleaner, more renewable forms of energy.

Reuters reported Wednesday that TransCanada stated in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that they no longer expect a decision on the pipeline’s construction to be made this year.