Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

The Latest on the Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline could eventually stretch from  Canada to Texas.

Photo by flickr user rickz

The Keystone XL Pipeline could eventually stretch from Canada to Texas.

In Texas, the Keystone XL pipeline, which will take heavy oil harvested from sand pits in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, has raised questions about eminent domain and potentially leaky pipes. Despite those controversies, Texas’ portion of the pipeline is nearly completed. That section will link up with the existing Keystone pipeline to trasport oil from Canada. If the XL portion is ultimately approved, even more Canadian tar sands oil will be coming to Texas.

But the fate of that last part of the project is still in question. Phase 4, which will stretch from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Neb. is still a flashpoint of controversy. Here’s a quick roundup of the most recent Keystone XL Pipeline news:

  • The Gulf Coast Pipeline Project, the stretch of pipe that runs from Cushing, Okla. to Nederland, Texas, is almost done. Reuters reported last week that the southern portion of the pipeline’s expansion is “95 percent complete,” according to a TransCanada spokesman. The pipeline could start moving oil by the end of the year.
  • TransCanada Corp initially anticipated that it would secure a presidential permit for the pipeline by the end of 2013. But in a statement filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company no longer plans for that to happen.
  • Presidential permit or not, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems undeterred by the project’s delays.”My view is that you don’t take no for an answer,” Harper said on September 26. “This won’t be final until it’s approved and we will keep pushing forward.”
  • Some experts have speculated that lawmakers will use the pipeline as a bargaining chip in the debt ceiling debate. Congress must vote to raise the country’s debt ceiling by October 17 or the government will not be able to pay all of its bills. It’s possible that lawmakers in favor of the pipeline will use the prospect of a fiscal crisis to get President Obama to approve the project.
  • In Nebraska, farmers and landowners protesting the pipeline built a solar-powered barn and wind turbine in its path. The barn is in violation of TransCanada’s contract for the pipeline, which says that no permanent structures can stand in its path. The barn itself will host seminars on sustainable on sustainable farming practices and renewable energy.

Meanwhile several cases brought by landowners against the pipeline (and other pipelines in Texas) are  ongoing. Efforts to reform the eminent domain process during the latest state legislative session went nowhere, leaving the door open for more litigation. As we reported in July:

“State Supreme Court rulings have said pipeline companies are not doing enough to prove they can take private land. Meanwhile, an unprecedented boom in oil and gas drilling means those same companies are scrambling to put more pipeline in the ground. The result has been an explosion in litigation over how and when companies are able to take private land.

But while Texas may be ground zero in the struggle over eminent domain, industry representatives and legal experts are seeing more Texas-style battles in other parts of the country as drilling and pipeline building expand.”

For more on the Keystone XL pipeline, check out our topic page.


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