POSTED: Friday, July 22, 2011 - 9:19pm
UPDATED: Friday, July 22, 2011 - 11:59pm
OMAHA, Neb. — The U.S. State Department still plans to decide sometime this year whether to allow a Canadian firm to build a $7 billion pipeline carrying tar sands oil across the Plains to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.
But the public will get another chance to weigh in on the project.
Officials said Friday that a series of meetings will be held in September in the capitols of each of the six states TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline would cross. Additional meetings will be held in the Nebraska Sandhills, on the Gulf Coast and in Washington D.C.
The new pipeline would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, traveling through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before reaching refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.
The project would double the capacity of the existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Oklahoma and Illinois. Supporters say the two projects could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil and create jobs. Environmental groups have raised concerns that the pipeline could foul water supplies and increase pollution.
The State Department released a second environmental study on the project in April, concluding that no new issues had been revealed since a similar report was completed last year.
A final environmental report on the project is scheduled to be issued in August. Then other federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department, will have 90 days to comment on that final report.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has authority over Keystone XL because the 1,900-mile project crosses the U.S. border.
Calgary-based TransCanada has promised that the pipeline would be safe and reliable.