IN THE NEWS ~ Conservatives praise new Keystone assessment

Jessica Hume, Parliamentary Bureau, Correspondent, Sun Media

Duplicates: THE WINNIPEG SUN (FINAL), 14, THE TORONTO SUN (FINAL), 20, THE EDMONTON SUN (FINAL), 20; THE OTTAWA SUN (FINAL), 8, THE CALGARY SUN (FINAL), 26.

OTTAWA - Conservative politicians hailed an interim environmental assessment by the U.S. State Department as a step in the right direction towards seeing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline approved.

Released Friday, the lengthy report concluded that transporting crude oil and bitumen from Alberta to America via the proposed pipeline would be no more harmful to the environment than moving it by other means.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver - who participated in significant lobbying efforts by Canada - said the relationship between Canada and the U.S. was the most successful in the world and that the pipeline would represent "shared prosperity, energy security and environmental stewardship."

Oliver is one of many Conservatives to tout the economic benefits the pipeline would bring to Canada.

"The Keystone XL pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border," he said in a statement. "Canada's continued prosperity will be determined by our ability to diversify markets for our energy products."

But Canada has come under harsh criticism for its environmental record. Recent reiterations by President Barack Obama about his commitment to combat climate change were interpreted by many Canadians to be an indication that Canada's environmental record needed to be improved for Obama to take the pipeline project under serious consideration.

In his statement, Oliver tried to make that point.

"Canada has aligned its goals on greenhouse gas emissions with the United States, committing to a 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020."

The pipeline is of tremendous importance to Alberta, and Premier Alison Redford, called the interim report a "step in the right direction."

"Alberta applauds the U.S. administration for the extensive, exacting and comprehensive review of potential environmental impacts of the project," she said in a statement.

Peter Julian, NDP natural resources and energy critic, called Redford's and Oliver's comments spin.

He also said actual benefits of the pipeline would pale in comparison to the picture painted by its supporters.

"Keystone really in an export pipeline for Canadian jobs," he told QMI Agency. "It wouldn't even create many full-time jobs in the States."

Julian said Canada has squandered its resources, having to import oil at world prices to the east coast and exporting it at a discount to the American market.

"Why ship it out when we could have a national energy strategy here that would [create jobs] and reduce our reliance on international markets."

A decision on the project's approval is expected by the year's end.

© QMI Agency 2013