Canada still expecting Keystone approval

Canada’s government is still expecting the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, despite recent doubts about the project from President Obama.

Greg Rickford, Canada’s minister for natural resources, said Wednesday that he supports the State Department’s process, even though it has taken more than six years, and believes it will result in an approval.

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“The process, led by by the U.S. State Department, which is based on science and facts ... appears to point towards approval of the project,” Rickford told reporters. “I believe this is a question of when, as opposed to if.”

Rickford, who has led Canada’s natural resources ministry since last March, gave his comments at the end of a two-day trip to Washington to lobby for Keystone XL, an oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas that has been proposed by Canada-based TransCanada Corp.

Canada’s optimism on Keystone came despite comments Obama has made in recent months questioning the benefits of the pipeline.

For example, in December, Obama said it would be “very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers, it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.”

“On the basis of the science and facts that are contained in the report and the many reports that are going to be contained in it, that we understand, they point to approval of Keystone,” Rickford said Wednesday.

Rickford met with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and State Department officials, as well as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) on his trip.

All of the lawmakers with whom he met support a bill to bypass Obama and force approval of Keystone, except King.

Despite meeting with the individual lawmakers, Rickford repeatedly declined to comment on the debate raging in Congress over whether to approve the pipeline.

“While I’m not going to comment specifically on the American political process, I will say that our position on Keystone remains the same: we believe the project should be approved,” he said. “We support the science, the facts, the scientists, in their reporting for the U.S. State Department and by the U.S. State Department.”

But Rickford also said he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper support the Obama administration’s position that decisions on cross-border pipelines rest solely with the executive branch. That led the White House last week to threaten to veto the bill to approve the pipeline.

He said he strongly supports the scientific process the State Department is conducting on the pipeline, and that Canada has a similar process.

“We have made it loud and clear to those congressional leaders and the folks that we’ve met with over the past couple of days that we support the work that the State Department is doing,” he said.

Rickford also did not say whether he discouraged the lawmakers from pursuing their legislation, which would bypass Obama’s authority.