WASHINGTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford appears to be looking to Congress for support of the Keystone XL pipeline in what could prove to be an end-run around U.S. President Barack Obama.
Redford is in Washington today where she met with Canada’s ambassador, Gary Doer.
During a photo op at the Canadian embassy, Doer waved toward the Capitol while stating that 62 senators had, in principle, voted for what the ambassador called “our favourite project.”
A March congressional vote, which supported the building of Keystone with 17 Democrats onside, was interpreted by some as a move toward taking away Obama’s presidential permit for the pipeline.
Another bill is currently before Congress that would explicitly remove the presidential permit and put the decision in the hands of pro-pipeline U.S. senators.
On Wednesday, Redford will meet with members of Congress to pitch the pipeline’s importance to the Canadian and U.S. economies, but her staff won’t yet say who she’s meeting.
President Obama is to decide later this year on whether to approve the 1,800-kilometre line, which would take oil from Alberta’s oilsands through the U.S. to refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast in Texas.
“Down the street, 62 senators, in principle, voted for our favourite project, so onward and upward,” Doer said Tuesday as he stood with Redford at the embassy.
Washington is currently engaged with the pipeline issue, so it’s a good time to get her message out, said Redford. But she maintained the visit — her fourth to Washington in 18 months — is more about Alberta’s longer-term trade relationship with the U.S.
“We don’t ever come here as proponents of a particular project, but really in terms of what our trading relationship is.”
A decision on the fate of the $7-billion TransCanada (TSX:TRP) line has already been postponed once by Obama amid widespread concerns from environmentalists.
Protesters have demonstrated by the thousands in Washington over not just the potential environmental damage by any leaks from Keystone XL, but also over what the line represents.
They say by approving Keystone XL, the U.S. would be approving the expansion of carbon-intensive operations like the oilsands and causing further damage to the environment through greenhouse gases.
The petroleum industry, labour groups and Redford have said Keystone XL is a vital measure to bolster Canada’s economy and ensure a stable source of oil for the United States.
They got a boost recently when the U.S. State Department, in a preliminary report, said rejecting Keystone XL would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions or slow down development in the oilsands.
Obama has said he considers action on global warming a cornerstone of his policy-making plans.
Redford has touted her province’s $15-tonne tax on carbon for heavy emitters, but her government has also admitted it’s falling far behind on its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.