* Republican lawmakers bemoan lack of focus in notice
* TransCanada: only Nebraska portion of line needs review
* Environmental group urges broad look at issues
By Roberta Rampton and Scott Haggett
WASHINGTON/CALGARY, Alberta, June 15 The scope
of a planned environmental review of the Keystone XL oil
pipeline from Canada could go beyond a small disputed portion in
Nebraska and threatens to delay the project further, its
Republican backers in Congress said on Friday.
The State Department asked on Friday for public comments by
the end of July to help determine the scope of an environmental
review ordered earlier this year for the controversial pipeline.
The review is designed to supplement a "final" environmental
impact report issued last August.
Republicans suggested the State Department request could
expand the review beyond an 88-mile (140-km) portion of the
route through Nebraska that has been altered because of
"In essence they're saying, 'OK, now we're going to start
all over again,'" Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North
Dakota, said in an interview.
"Who knows how long it's going to take them?" said Hoeven,
who has championed efforts in Congress to get fast-track
approval for the project.
TransCanada Corp's pipeline was designed to carry
crude from Canada's oilsands and from the Bakken oilfields in
North Dakota and Montana to Texas refineries.
After four years of environmental reviews, and months of
high-profile protests from environmental groups, President
Barack Obama put a hold on the project in January.
Obama said concerns raised by Nebraska, where the pipeline
was initially proposed to go over a sensitive aquifer, warranted
additional study, although he did allow the southernmost leg of
the pipeline to go ahead.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has made the
pipeline part of his stump speeches, saying he would immediately
approve the project if elected because of the construction jobs
it would create and the oil it would bring from Canada.
The State Department notice could further aggravate tensions
among lawmakers trying to negotiate a new transportation
spending law by June 30.
Republicans want to include a provision to speed approval of
the pipeline as part of the $109 billion Senate-passed package
for road, bridge and rail projects.
"Keystone needs to be part of it," said Hoeven, who is part
of the Senate-House panel negotiating the package.
TRANSCANADA SAYS ONLY NEBRASKA NEEDS REVIEW
TransCanada downplayed the potential of additional delay,
noting the State Department's notice indicated the review would
be a "supplement" to the final environmental impact study
completed in August 2011.
"By its terms, this does not represent a restart of the
entire (environmental review) process," said Shawn Howard, a
spokesman for TransCanada.
The only new element needing review was the revised route
through Nebraska, the company said.
The State Department said its study would focus on the new
Nebraska route but could also examine any other new significant
The department reiterated on its website that it would need
until the first quarter of 2013 to complete the review process.
"We will conduct our review efficiently, using existing
analysis as appropriate," the department said.
The State Department also said it would look at the
pipeline's impact on any national historic places or "cultural
But Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the House of
Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee, said the
review's parameters were not yet clear.
"By not limiting the scope of the review to just the new
Nebraska segment, the entire project could become tangled in
unnecessary review and red tape, and subjected to attacks and
stalling tactics by opponents," Upton said in a statement.
The National Wildlife Federation wants the State Department
to take a hard look at the project, Joe Mendelson, the group's
director of climate and energy policy, said in a statement.
"For starters, the State Department must thoroughly analyze
the safety issues involved with transporting corrosive tar sands
in the pipeline, account for the increased carbon emissions that
will speed global warming," Mendelson said.
The group also wants additional study of risks to endangered
species and more consultation with American Indian tribes, he