Former administration official: Keystone ‘will eventually be built’

A former top official with the Department of Transportation thinks the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline “will eventually be built.”

In an interview with Platts Energy Week, former head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Cynthia Quarterman, said she thinks Keystone will be built, but wouldn’t say when.

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The fate of the oil sands pipeline is currently in limbo at the State Department, which placed its interagency review on hold as the Nebraska Supreme Court weighs who had the authority to approve the project’s route through Nebraska.

Quarterman, who stepped down in October, said she wouldn’t call the fight surrounding Keystone XL a “symbolic” one.

She said “climate change is extremely important” and those opposed to the $8 billion project are worried about the impact it will have on climate change.

“However, and there is a ‘however’, we have to realize that if this pipeline were not crossing the international borders, we would not be talking about it all because oil pipelines in this country can pretty much go wherever they want without any sort of governmental involvement unless they’re passing over federal lands,” Quarterman said.

She added that she thinks the Canada-to-Texas pipeline will be built, but couldn’t say if it would be President Obama who approves it or if Congress could be successful in forcing his hand.

“I don’t know if the president himself will do it, but eventually, as I think of most resources in the ground, eventually they will be developed — I think this pipeline will be built. I won’t guess what year that will be,” Quarterman said.

Quarterman, who led PHMSA since 2009, said she thinks a bigger question that can arise from the Keystone XL debate is talking about “national interest determinations for these projects whether it is import oil into the country by pipeline or export gas or oil and LNG [liquefied natural gas].”