Dec 17, 2012 10:15 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
On Monday, the state's top lawmakers green-lighted the Keystone XL pipeline route in Montana allowing the line to cross two of Montana's largest rivers.
The Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline which would span 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada, through Montana to Nebraska.
The State Land Board, made up of Montana's top five elected officials, approved nearly 40 easements running through seven Montana counties, giving TransCanada permission to put the pipeline on state land.
AFL-CIO representative Chris Cavazos says the unions support this project because they say it will help boost the state's economy.
"It will create over 900 building and construction trade jobs here in Montana. They're not minimum wage jobs, these are good jobs with high wages, pensions, and health care benefits," Cavazos testified before the Land Board.
Executive Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center Jim Jensen asked the Board to delay decision on the easements, citing specific concerns about the pipeline crossing the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers.
"The fact that the Land Board does not have in front of it the terms and conditions, & the final analysis, any of those federal requirements before making this decision puts the cart before the horse," Jensen testified.
Despite opposition, the Land Board unanimously voted to approved the easements.
Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) told opponents, "If there are concerns, there are regulatory agencies that are responsible for that area. We do watermelons, they do grapes, and so this is the wrong agency to take the concerns to."
While Montana has given the pipeline the go-ahead, TransCanada is still waiting on a Presidential permit from U.S. State Department before it can move forward with construction.
In total TransCanada estimates the project will cost $5.3 billion and will be capable of transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day.
The Keystone XL will tie into the Gulf Coast pipeline which would allow oil from Canada to reach Texas.