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US green groups target Keystone oil pipeline

TransCanada Corp's planned $5.2 billion Keystone oil pipeline system is facing opposition from US environmental groups, who earlier this week went to court in an attempt to block US government approval of the project.

The National Resources Defense Council, the Dakota Resource Council and Dakota Rural Action filed suit on Wednesday in US District Court in Washington D.C., against the Department of State, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Reuben Jeffery, undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

The groups allege in the suit that the Keystone project will spur refinery expansions, increase greenhouse gas emissions and create more air and water pollution in the Midwest and surrounding states.

The suit alleges the defendants did not consider the environmental impacts of the planned pipeline before granting the presidential permit that allows the line to cross into the United States from Canada.

The suit states that the US National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the defendants to assess all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts from the pipeline and claims this has not been done.

“Although plaintiffs and others repeatedly admonished defendants that NEPA requires them to address (and, as warranted, to mitigate) the predictable increases in pollution from the refining of oil transported through the pipeline, defendants refused to consider these environmental impacts, and permitted the pipeline without the benefit of this important information,” the filing states.

The 3,456-km (2,148-mile) Keystone pipeline, jointly owned by TransCanada and ConocoPhillips will carry up to 590,000 barrel a day of oil from Canada's oil sands to refiners in the Midwest.

Construction of the line to Wood River and Patoka, Illinois, is expected to be completed in 2009, with the extension to Cushing opening a year later.

Last month, the project's backers announced plans for a second pipeline to be added to the Keystone system that will carry a further 500,000 bpd of oil sands crude to the US Gulf Coast.

The environmental groups are asking the court to force the State Department to rescind the presidential permit.

The State Department could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. (Reuters)