The fight over TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) proposed Keystone XL project probably will be repeated as companies build more conduits to carry oil and gas to U.S. markets, the former chief pipeline safety regulator said.
Brigham McCown, who led the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for President George W. Bush, said the lengthy review for TransCanada’s application to transport a type of heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast will embolden opponents of fossil fuels.
“I think this is the decade of pipelines, fighting pipelines,” McCown, managing director of United Transportation Advisors, a Southlake, Texas-based consulting firm, said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast. “If you choke off the supply line, that’s very important. These pipelines have kind of become our version of the Khyber Pass for people opposed to doing whatever it is we want to do. So, more to come.”
The Khyber Pass is an important strategic link between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama’s administration is weighing whether the $5.3 billion Keystone project, which crosses the U.S.- Canadian border at Montana, is in the U.S. national interest. The State Department issued a draft environmental assessment of the route in March and may make a decision this year.
Opponents say the pipeline will worsen climate change and put water resources and sensitive habitats at risk.
“I think the people who are opposed to the oil sands and opposed to hydrocarbons in general are using the pipeline as an excuse to promote their cause,” McCown said.
McCown was scheduled to testify about Keystone at a House Science, Space and Technology Committee panel hearing today.
U.S. regulators should spend more time reviewing spill-response plans, he said.
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