Canadian panel OKs oil pipeline to Pacific, pressuring US on Keystone

A top oil lobby said U.S. energy security is "at stake" with a Canadian panel's decision to okay a major pipeline that would carry crude to the Pacific on Thursday.

Canada's National Energy Board decided to move forward on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which will carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific Coast for delivery to China. The project will still need to be approved by the Canadian government.

The move backed claims by the U.S. oil industry that Canada's product will get to market with or without Keystone XL.

"It is just another reason we need to build Keystone XL," a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute told The Hill late Thursday. "President Obama needs to understand our energy future is at stake here. Building KXL will enhance our energy security and create jobs."

"[Keystone XL] would also directly bring the oil sands to the Gulf for refining instead of shipping it to other markets," the spokesperson added.

With Obama's delayed decision on Keystone XL, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper voiced support of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which the panel approved with 209 conditions -- more that what would be required for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

Conditions for the Northern Gateway project include a marine mammal protection plan, a research program on the cleanup of heavy oil spills, and a habitat restoration plan.

Environmentalists voiced strong opposition to the Northern Gateway project, citing similar concerns that they have with Keystone XL. Many claim the pipelines will increase carbon emissions. And in the case of Keystone XL, green groups say it will not improve the nation's energy security.

The State Department's environmental review of Keystone XL is due out any day.