By JAMES MacPHERSON
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — After a four-year review, the U.S. State Department on Friday said it does not believe there would be significant negative environmental impact from a Canadian company’s plan to boost the capacity of an oil pipeline that crosses the U.S. border in northeastern North Dakota.
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Energy Partners asked the State Department in 2012 for a presidential permit to transport 800,000 barrels daily on an existing 3-mile section of pipeline on the company’s Alberta Clipper pipeline that carries tar sand oil from Canada across northeastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota to Superior, Wis.
The State Department’s supplemental environmental impact statement announced Friday was “coincidental” to President Donald Trump’s action to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little said.
“It’s been long process to get to this point,” Little said. “It is what it is.”
Todd Leake, a Sierra Club spokesman in North Dakota, said he believes Trump’s fingerprints are all over the State Department conclusion.
“All pipelines are politics and money,” said Leake, who farms about 80 miles from where the pipeline crosses into the U.S. near Neche, North Dakota. “All recent approvals of these pipelines go right back to the Trump administration.”
The State Department is taking public comment on its draft environmental impact statement for 45 days, until March 27. The State Department issues presidential permits for projects that cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
The Alberta Clipper pipeline, which also is known as “Line 67” was completed in 2009 at a cost of about $1 billion. The company wants permission to expand its current capacity on the line where it crosses the international border from about 450,000 barrels daily to 800,000 barrels a day. While awaiting the nod from the U.S. government, the company has been rerouting the additional barrels through a 1960s-era pipeline along the same route for the 3 miles.
That pipeline already has a presidential permit. If approved by the U.S government, the Alberta Clipper would transport the additional tar sands oil without being transferred, and the old pipeline would be rebuilt, Little said.
Opponents argue that oil sands extraction exacerbates global warming because it takes more energy to produce and generates more carbon dioxide.
The Keystone XL, which had languished for years under the administration of President Barack Obama, also is designed to carry Canadian tar sands oil, and Trump last month invited its builder, TransCanada, to resubmit its application to the State Department for a presidential permit, and the company has said that it will.
Trump also last month instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to advance work on the Dakota Access pipeline. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners on Wednesday got final permission from the Army to proceed with a crossing of the Missouri River in southern North Dakota.
The work on the $3.8 billion project had been stalled for months due to opposition by American Indian groups and their supporters.