By JOSH FUNK
The Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 5:38 PM
OMAHA, Neb. -- Several environmental groups called Thursday for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to excuse herself from the review of a $7 billion oil pipeline project because of comments she made last month suggesting support for it.
TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline needs a permit from the State Department because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border in carrying Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Clinton said Oct. 15 that she was inclined to approve the pipeline. The environmental groups say that's improper because the pipeline is still under review.
"Secretary Clinton's bias on this unnecessary and controversial pipeline undermines the credibility of the State Department's review," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.
Pipeline opponents say the Keystone XL has the potential to be an ecological disaster and could jeopardize the vast stores of groundwater under the Plains. Supporters say the project could be a boon for U.S. jobs and energy production while strengthening a friendly source of oil.
Clinton's remarks about supporting the project came during a question-and-answer session after an Oct. 15 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
"We've not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons - going back to one of your original questions - we're either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada," Clinton said, according to a transcript.
Clinton also said during her speech that the U.S. needs to develop more clean, renewable energy sources.
State Department officials did not immediately respond to a message Thursday. Previously, a spokesman said no decision would be made on the project until the required environmental review is completed and all the comments received have been considered.
Since Clinton's comments were publicized, more than a dozen U.S. Senators have written letters to her complaining. The lawmakers urged her to consider all sides and conduct a thorough review before deciding whether to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed.
The pipeline would cross Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada has also proposed connecting from the pipeline to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota. The proposed path crosses several rivers and the massive underground Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people in eight states and supports irrigation.
Environmental groups have raised concerns that the pipeline could foul underground and surface water supplies, worsen air pollution around refineries and harm wildlife. They have also speculated about what they consider inadequate pipeline safety and emergency spill response.
Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. has said the pipeline would provide a reliable source of oil to the U.S. from a stable trading partner and would not threaten the environment.
Along with the Friends of the Earth, the letter calling for Clinton to recuse herself was signed by Greenpeace USA, Plains Justice, Public Citizen, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for International Environmental Law and Indigenous Environmental Network.
Department of State pipeline site:http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov
Transcript of Clinton's remarks:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/10/149542.htm