- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The State Department report that found no major environmental objections to construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline came as no surprise Friday to both proponents and opponents of the project in energy-rich North Dakota.

The state’s congressional delegation said the findings should give President Barack Obama no reason to hold back the long-delayed pipeline, which would travel through Montana and South Dakota before reaching Nebraska.

“It’s appalling this process is taking so long,” said North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat. “Not only is it unacceptable, but it’s embarrassing that we cannot approve a pipeline application in the time it took us to fight World War II.”

Landowners in southeastern North Dakota who live near the first Keystone pipeline said they were disappointed with the review, but it was not unexpected. The report was the fifth environmental analysis on the project since 2010.

Bob Banderet, who lives between Oakes and Cogswell, said he didn’t expect the report to raise too many red flags after high-profile train derailments involving crude oil trains in North Dakota and Canada. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the pipeline is approved.

“I was putting a little hope in this study, if maybe they found a few more things,” said Banderet, who lives within a mile of the original pipeline. “I’m afraid the ball is certainly rolling downhill again.”

Banderet lives close to a pumping station that leaked more than 14,000 gallons of oil in May 2011 and said it’s “not if but when” it will happen again.

“What we would really like,” said Don Morrison, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental group of landowners, “is if this discussion on the pipeline would take into consideration some of the safety issues.”

North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven called the report a “step forward” in the project and said it affirms the need to begin construction without further delay.

“On the other hand, the report is vague and provides no timeline for a final decision, giving the president broad room to postpone a decision further,” Hoeven said. “That would be consistent with his tactic over the past five years of trying to defeat the project through bureaucratic delay and deferral.”

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer said the testimony “adds to a pile of 15,500 pages of existing review on the most studied pipeline in history” and said the State Department shouldn’t need more homework.

“Six years after the application to build Keystone XL was first submitted, Americans are still asking President Obama why he has not approved a project which will solve infrastructure problems and create jobs,” Cramer said.

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