Oil and gas lobby says State Department considering Keystone hearing

The official said it would allow for more public input once Foggy Bottom reaches the phase where it will determine whether the project is in the nation's interest. That would come after it finalizes an environmental impact statement for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline.

That phase would determine whether to grant a cross-border permit to TransCanada Corp. so it could finish the pipeline’s northern leg.

But Schild said a hearing on that part of the process is unnecessary. 

"We think this project is in the national interest," Schild told The Hill on Tuesday. She argued that if a hearing is held it should be on concerns other than the environment, saying "that one has been put to bed" by the department's draft environmental analysis.

Keystone’s supporters, which include Republicans, centrist Democrats, industry groups and some unions, contend the State Department already has taken too long to render a decision. They say it would provide a burst of short-term construction jobs and strengthen energy security.

“The president needs to step up and lead on this issue,” Schild said.

Schild said that the draft environmental review rejected claims made by Keystone’s detractors that the pipeline would accelerate oil sands production and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

That draft assessment, released in March, said market demand would facilitate oil sands production regardless of whether Keystone is built. Rail transport and other pipelines, it said, would bring the crude out of the ground.

The Environmental Protection Agency, however, has challenged those findings.

And opponents of the project say a recent statement of opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline by British Columbia’s provincial government undercuts the State Department's analysis.

The Northern Gateway would move oil sands across Canada to export to Asia. But without that pipeline, Canadian officials have to increasingly rely on Keystone to move its oil sands, the project’s opponents have said.

Schild rejected that notion. She said the draft review said rail and four other proposed pipelines would bring oil sands to market if Keystone doesn’t. And, she said, the decision on Northern Gateway ultimately rests with Canada’s federal government, which is currently reviewing the project.

“The State Department said it’s coming out regardless of the pipeline,” Schild said. “Oil sands will likely make its way to the Gulf (of Mexico), regardless of the Keystone XL pipeline.”