TransCanada Expects U.S. Decision on Keystone XL by End of March

TransCanada Corp. (TRP), Canada’s second-largest pipeline company by market value, expects a U.S. ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline in the first quarter of 2014.

The current U.S. government shutdown isn’t causing a “material delay” in the State Department’s review of the $5.3 billion pipeline, Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, said today at a conference in Calgary, where the company is based. TransCanada expects a final environmental impact statement from the department “this fall,” he said.

“It does appear a lot of the work is getting done at the agencies,” Pourbaix told reporters.

Keystone XL would connect rising oil-sands production in Alberta with U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The project has become a lightning rod for environmental opponents seeking to slow oil-sands development. Trade groups and the Canadian government have rallied behind the line, calling it a job creator.

U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the line in January 2012, citing threats posed by its route through ecologically sensitive lands in Nebraska, and invited TransCanada to re-apply. The company split the project in two last year, proceeding with the southern portion that doesn’t require a permit, and reapplied for approval of the northern leg with a new Nebraska route.

U.S. mid-term elections next year pose a larger threat to a Keystone XL decision than the U.S. government shutdown, Pourbaix said.

“Obviously this is a political file,” Pourbaix said. “Sometimes big important issues get tabled in elections.”

Enbridge Inc. (ENB) is Canada’s largest pipeline company by market value.

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