Even a “no” would be better than no decision on the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, Foreign Minister John Baird told a Washington business audience Thursday.
“The time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it’s not the right one,” Mr. Baird said. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo,” he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It was the first time a senior Canadian politician has told a U.S. audience that even a decision blocking Keystone XL would be better than further delay.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly delayed a decision on the controversial project, a tactic Prime Minister Stephen Harper has referred to as punting.
With mid-term elections looming, some advocates of the controversial pipeline fear the White House will delay again, until after November.
Mr. Baird said the greater risks associated with shipping oil by rail, the greater damage to the environment if Keystone XL isn’t built and a greater U.S. reliance on foreign oil from unreliable suppliers like Venezuela all underpinned the need for approval of the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.
“Compared to sending by pipelines, sending by rail causes higher greenhouse-gas emissions and raises the per-mile incident rate,” he said, but made no direct mention of the disastrous rail accidents involving oil, including one at Lac-Mégantic, Que.
On Wednesday, Mr. Baird met with senior White House officials and key U.S. lawmakers.
After a morning session at the White House with Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Mr. Baird spent much of the day pitching for the approval of Keystone XL, saying it was “decision time.”
Still, even with the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that has largely redefined relations between the three nations, contentious bilateral issues – Keystone XL for Canada and immigration for Mexico – continue to bedevil relations with the United States.
He had talks with North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat and strident backer of Keystone XL, which would move North Dakota’s burgeoning light oil production as well as Alberta’s heavy oil sands crude. Mr. Baird also met with Louisiana’s Senator Mary Landrieu, another Democrat, who is the likely next chair of the powerful Senate Energy Committee, and Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is pressing for an end to the current ban on U.S. crude oil exports.
Even a â€˜noâ€™ on Keystone pipeline is better than silence: Baird - The Globe and Mail