US congressmen are attempting to delay State Department approval of the US$ 12 billion expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, some 50 members of the House of Representatives insist that the proposed tarsands oil pipeline needs more consideration before a decision is reached.
The congressmen believe that the pipeline would have significant energy and environment implications for the US for many years to come, and are insisting that the permitting process be done with full consideration of the administration's clean energy and climate change priorities.
The letter states that “this pipeline would transport up to 900 000 bpd of tarsands oil from Alberta, Canada, over 3200 km to refineries on the US Gulf Coast, more than doubling US consumption of tarsands oil.”
Two other pipelines have already been approved by the State Department. The first, Keystone 1, will eventually carry crude to Cushing, Oklahoma, and the second, the Alberta Clipper, will run from Canada to Superior, Wis.
If all three get built, tar sands would make up 15% of US fuel supply, a significant increase from the current 4%.
The politicians say that oilsands operations emit three times more greenhouse gases than conventional production. Turning tar sands into usable oil involves mining bitumen, a tar-like petroleum that is buried beneath the boreal forests in Alberta. Extraction requires substantial energy and water and creates sprawling tailing ponds that may be leaking up to 3 million gallons of contaminated waste into the ground each day, endangering wildlife and public health.
In addition, the refining for the crude delivered by Keystone XL would take place in Houston, using a process that the congressmen say would spew higher levels of dangerous pollutants than conventional oil production, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and heavy metals.
However, despite the delay caused by the letter, TransCanada has said it is confident that the project will get the go-ahead this year, allowing construction to begin in 2011.