Sen. Heitkamp: Keystone pipeline backers ‘optimistic’

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), fresh off a visit to the Canadian oil sands, says there's optimism north of the border that the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved.

She spoke with the The Dickinson Press about this week’s visit with Alberta Premier Alison Redford, officials with pipeline developer TransCanada Corp., oil sands producers and others.

From the Press story:

Heitkamp said she believes the pipeline — which still needs State Department approval — will eventually get the green light.

“We had some pretty extensive political-type discussions about the challenges before us,” Heitkamp said. “But I think at this point, everybody is optimistic because the environmental assessment said there was no environmental impact. People are still concerned about how that might be perceived by the State Department, but people are optimistic.”

Heitkamp backs the proposed pipeline that's under review by the Obama administration. It would bring oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. Keystone would also carry oil from her state’s booming Bakken formation.

Environmentalists are battling the project. They say it would worsen climate change by enabling a major expansion of carbon-intensive oil sands production.

A draft State Department study in March buoyed project supporters by concluding that Keystone would have little effect on the extent of oil sands development expansion. Project critics are strongly challenging the finding.

Heitkamp said people she spoke with on the trip don’t understand why there’s such a fuss over Keystone in the U.S.

“The people that I talked to, most of them, don’t understand why the [Keystone XL] has gotten so much attention. It’s a pipeline that would be used as a means to transport hydrocarbon and doesn’t add to the carbon footprint,” she said in the Press story.