State Dep't Draws Fire for Allowing Tar Sands Pipeline Detour

A Canadian pipeline company's plan to bring more tar sands oil into the United States without waiting for a federal permit is drawing resistance from environmentalists who say it's skirting the law.

Last week, 18 green groups sent a letter to the U.S. State Department asking the agency to "take immediate action to halt this illegal increase in tar sands crude oil imports until it completes its ongoing environmental review." Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) expressed similar concerns in a separate letter to the agency.

The issue highlights uncertainties in the way international pipelines are regulated, and the growing opposition to tar sands oil, which releases 17 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude and is harder to clean up when it spills into water.

The pipeline in question is the Enbridge-owned Alberta Clipper. It delivers 450,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, where it's shipped through other pipelines to refineries in the Midwest and South. The Alberta Clipper carries the same type of oil that would flow through the proposed Keystone XL.

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