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Activists, company spar over controversial international oil pipeline

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Tue September 20, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Foes of Canadian project hope to convince Obama to block it
  • Supporters say it will create up to 20,000 jobs, reduce dependence on Mideast
  • Final congressional hearing is October 7
  • $7 billion pipeline would stretch from Canada to Texas

(CNN) -- As the decision deadline on the controversial proposal to build a giant oil pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and Texas draws closer, activists and the company behind the project are ratcheting up their war of words.

Known as Keystone XL, the 1,700-mile pipeline has drawn fierce criticism from activists like Daryl Hannah, who spoke to CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Monday.

Opponents of the project say it will bind the country to an unnecessary and dirty form of oil for decades to come and expose surrounding areas to dangerous spills and leaks.

Supporters contend it will create up to 20,000 jobs and let the United States replace Venezuelan or Middle Eastern imports with well-regulated, dependable Canadian crude.

"It's incredibly bad news," Hannah said about the proposed pipeline. "We have options available to us. We already know how to create energy from safe, renewable resources, and we need to start doing it in this country."

Actress Daryl Hannah joins protesters outside the White House in August, to rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Actress Daryl Hannah joins protesters outside the White House in August, to rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.

The actress said she hopes to pressure President Barack Obama "to make the right decision," as the project needs a presidential permit to move forward.

Hannah was arrested last month protesting the pipeline during a sit-in in front of the White House.

Baldwin also spoke Monday to James Millar, spokesman for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline.

He defended his company's record on safety and said that "one way or another, the oil will be produced."

"We're confident the State Department will say 'yes,' and it's based on the fundamental fact that Americans have a choice. You can receive stable, secure oil from Canada ... or you can choose to import higher-priced, conflict oil from regimes that really are not friendly to the United States," Millar said.

The project would create 20,000 jobs -- 13,000 of which would be construction jobs, he said.

The final congressional hearing on the $7 billion project is scheduled for October 7 in Washington. And the State Department, which concluded in August that the pipeline could be built without significant damage to the environment, has said a decision is expected before the end of the year.

The pipeline would draw from oil sands deposits in Canada and pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, with construction on an existing pipeline in Kansas. It could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion.

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