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Keystone XL Construction Could Start Next Year

TransCanada could begin work on the construction of the now notorious Keystone XL oil pipeline as soon as next year after an environmental impact review from the U.S. State Department concluded the pipeline’s impact on the environment would be “negligible to moderate”, the AP reports, citing a TransCanada spokesman.

Matthew John said that TransCanada was already doing preparatory work on the pipeline’s construction but, the AP notes, the company had earlier said it will only begin actual construction work on the pipeline’s route in Montana and South Dakota in the first half of 2019. Opposition continues, however.

The environmental impact review by the State Department was ordered by a judge on the request of environmental groups and Native American tribes. Now, the same judge, Brian Morris, will be hearing a fresh case against Keystone XL, brought to him by two Native American tribes.

“The tribes are talking about cultural sites, archaeological sites, burial grounds, graveyards — none of that has been surveyed and it’s in the way of the pipeline,” one of the plaintiffs' attorneys said at the launch of the suit. Also, according to the plaintiffs, the pipeline could damage a water supply system in South Dakota that some 51,000 people rely on, including the residents of three Native American reservations.

Perhaps there are some who will be genuinely surprised if the Keystone XL project—vetoed by the Obama administration, revived by President Trump—ever sees the light of day. It has become one of the most controversial oil projects in North America, but it is also one of the most important for Canadian crude oil producers hit by a significant pipeline capacity shortage.

Yet, with all the pressure from environmentalists, pipeline builders have put in extra effort to secure their infrastructure’s safety. The State Department report on Keystone XL noted measures taken for the continuous monitoring of the pipeline, automatic shut-off valves, and a procedure for cleanup response that, the report said, “would likely be capable of remediating the contaminated soil before the hazardous release reaches groundwater depth.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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