* Army Corps grants OK for Galveston district
* Approvals needed for Tulsa, Fort Worth districts
* TransCanada hopes to start construction this summer
* Friends of the Earth calls for EPA to step in
CALGARY, Alberta, June 26 The U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has granted TransCanada Corp one of three
permits it needs to build the $2.3 billion southern section of
the Keystone XL pipeline, a project President Barack Obama had
pledged to move forward quickly.
TransCanada, which seeks to build the overall project in
stages after Obama rejected the contentious first application,
said the approval covers wetland and water crossings in the
Galveston, Texas, district.
The company needs two other permits from the agency's Tulsa,
Oklahoma and Fort Worth, Texas districts for the pipeline
section, which it has rebranded the Gulf Coast project. Tulsa is
expected to decide on the permit on Thursday when a 45-day
period of consideration draws to a close, said Lavonna Davis, an
Army Corps public affairs specialist.
The Fort Worth district has asked TransCanada for more
information, so there is no estimate when the agency might
decide on the permit, she said. "Their clock hasn't started
ticking, not until they get the full package of information,"
The southern section would initially carry 700,000 barrels a
day of crude to Texas refineries from the glutted Cushing,
Oklahoma, storage hub with the aims of helping to raise deeply
discounted prices and providing the region more secure oil
supplies. It could be expanded to 830,000 bpd.
TransCanada expects to start construction later this summer.
It is free to begin work on the bit around Galveston at its own
risk, the Army Corps said.
In January, Obama nixed the initial $7.6 billion Keystone XL
application to take Canadian oil sands-derived crude to the Gulf
Coast, saying it needed more environmental review than could be
completed before a tight deadline set by the U.S. Congress.
But in February, he said he welcomed TransCanada's separate
initiative to build the southern section, saying it would create
jobs and encourage American energy production. He pledged to
fast-track approvals so the line could be in service by mid- to
TransCanada has also re-applied to build the northern part
of the pipeline between the Canada-United States border and
Steele City, Nebraska, though like the first application it
requires a more complex presidential permit process because it
crosses the international boundary.
Environmentalists have urged rejection of both, saying they
spell unnecessary oil spill risks and stand to increase
greenhouse gas emissions by fostering more tar sands development
Friends of the Earth called on the Environmental Protection
Agency to intervene.
"The Army Corps has shown a willful disregard for the
concerns of residents whose health, land and livelihoods are at
stake if Keystone XL is rubber-stamped, which is why we're
urging Administrator Lisa Jackson to step in and call for a full
environmental review," Kim Huynh, campaigner for the group, said
in a statement.
Davis said there is no process for other agencies to appeal
decisions on the permits.