Keystone XL developer: Other pipeline companies will face similar hurdles

TransCanada Corp.’s lengthy battle to build the Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline could be the new normal for other companies seeking U.S. approval for cross-border pipeline projects, an executive told financial analysts.

TransCanada’s Alex Pourbaix told analysts Tuesday that it would be “pretty naive” to assume other projects would face lower hurdles.

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He was asked whether the years-long Keystone permit process had set a “new standard,” and what this could mean for other projects, such as Spectra Energy’s possible bid to expand capacity of its Express-Platte oil pipeline.

“I think ... all of the issues that have made Keystone XL contentious with the opposition would be equally applicable to both of those projects you identified and I think it would be pretty naive to assume any future project certainly in the near future would be going through a significantly lower hurdle in terms of the Presidential permit process,” Pourbaix, TransCanada Corp.’s president for energy and oil pipelines, told an analyst with Credit Suisse.

His comments are available in a transcript of the call about TransCanada’s third-quarter earnings provided by the financial news and information website Seeking Alpha.

On the same call with analysts, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling expressed confidence that Keystone would ultimately win approval.

“I’ve got every confidence that we will get there and ... the State Department has issued four environmental impact statements. In all four of those they have come to the conclusions that are outlined that ... the project is necessary, that it has limited environmental impact on the resources and property along the route, and that it will have no material impact on [greenhouse gas] emissions,” he said.

The State Department is preparing to finalize its latest environmental review. The final decision is expected to come from the White House.

Environmentalists dispute State’s March draft finding that building or rejecting Keystone would have little impact on the rate of expansion of oil sands projects. They say it’s a catalyst for greater growth of the carbon-intensive projects.