Rail Accidents Seen Pushing Obama to Approve Keystone XL

Photographer: Bruce Crummy/AP Photo

A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota. Close

A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota.

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Photographer: Bruce Crummy/AP Photo

A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota.

Recent railroad accidents are increasing the chances President Barack Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, said Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican.

Hoeven, who supports TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) proposed link between Alberta’s oil sands and U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, today said the debate is starting to swing back and put “more pressure on him to approve” the pipeline.

Accidents like the explosion of a BNSF Railway Co. train hauling oil tanker cars about 25 miles west of Fargo, North Dakota, forcing the evacuation of a nearby town, shows more pipelines are needed to safely carry the rising production of U.S. oil to market, Hoeven said at a breakfast with Bloomberg Government reporters and editors.

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The State Department is overseeing completion of an environmental assessment of the pipeline. Hoeven, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said agency officials told him in a meeting late last year that the environmental review would be completed soon.

Hoeven said he thought the assessment will be released before the end of January, though State Department officials didn’t give him a timeline for its release.

The report is a key step in the review because it will estimate whether Keystone may add to climate-change risks. Obama said in a June speech that he wouldn’t approve Keystone if it would significantly add to the nation’s carbon pollution.

Environmental groups including 350.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council argue that Keystone would encourage development of the oil sands, which releases more carbon dioxide than other forms of oil production.

Crude on the Move

A draft State Department environmental analysis in March found that Keystone would have a negligible effect on greenhouse-gas emissions because the oil sands will be developed even if the project were blocked.

Hoeven said he’s confident that there are enough votes in Congress to grant Keystone XL legislative approval should Obama block the project.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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