Alberta Leader Vows Steps to Curb Keystone Climate Harms

Alberta is taking steps to limit the potential environmental damage of building TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian province’s premier said in a bid to win U.S. support for the project.

The government has adopted land-conservation policies, set limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and monitors industrial development for harm to the environment, Premier Alison Redford said today in a Washington speech that was occasionally interrupted by protesters.

Pipeline opponents “proclaim that either you stand against the oil sands, or you write off the environment, along with any hope for sustainable existence,” Redford said. “That is completely wrong.”

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council oppose the almost 2,000 mile (3,200 kilometer) Keystone pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The U.S. State Department is reviewing the $5.3 billion project because it would cross an international border.

Alberta taxes carbon emissions and uses the revenue to invest in clean-energy technologies. Redford declined to comment on whether the province plans to increase the tax and said the size of the levy isn’t part of her discussions with U.S. officials.

Province Targets

“We don’t come to Washington to negotiate on a transaction, but to talk about what we’ve done,” she told reporters after her remarks. “Our minister of environment is in discussions all the time -- with industry, with other jurisdictions, with the federal government -- on what we can do to achieve our targets.”

Diana McQueen, Alberta’s minister of environment and water, said at the event that the government is in the process of reviewing its strategy in dealing with climate change.

Critics of the pipeline have said it would cross a major U.S. aquifer, putting drinking-water supplies in jeopardy in the event of a leak or spill.

“Redford and Canadian oil companies may benefit from the pipeline, but folks here at home will be the ones taking on all of the risk, without any reward,” Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for a coalition of pipeline opponents known as “All Risk, No Reward” said today in a statement.

Dueling Campaigns

A draft analysis by the State Department on March 1 found that Keystone XL wouldn’t pose a significant environmental risk, though it didn’t recommend a decision on building the project. President Barack Obama has said he will make a decision on an application from Calgary-based TransCanada for the project by the end of the year.

Advocates and opponents are waging public-relations campaigns to sway policymakers on the pipeline. Redford is scheduled to meet with members of Congress during a two-day visit to Washington, her fourth in 18 months. Alberta’s government has hired Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc. to lobby for the project, among other energy issues, according to an April 3 filing with the Justice Department.

If the project across six states isn’t built, the U.S. refineries will continue to process oil from Venezuela, instead of increasing flows from Canada, Redford said at the Brookings Institution, where several protesters were escorted from the room after disrupting her speech.

“The opponents of Keystone are, in effect, tilting the playing field, ironically, in favor of Venezuela, which would be the biggest beneficiary in the absence of Keystone,” she said.

Canada provides about 29 percent of U.S. oil imports, while Venezuela supplies about 11 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a July analysis.