United States ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman had little to say Tuesday about a possible decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, but that didn't stop Canada's U.S. ambassador from bluntly stating there's no proof that the pipeline shouldn't be built.
Gary Doer said all the evidence – environmental, economic, safety and scientific – supports a favourable decision by the U.S. government for the Keystone oil pipeline.
Doer told delegates attending the annual Pacific Northwest Economic Region summit in Whistler, B.C., that decision-making delays are now starting to hurt the U.S. economy.
"Now there's a new report from Minnesota saying it's jamming up grain and minerals and other goods in Minnesota," he said.
State officials in Minnesota are concerned they can't find enough rail cars to transport their products to markets because oil shipments by rail in the U.S. are up 600 per cent and there's a shortage of cars, Doer stated.
He cited U.S. scientific data that shows shipping oil by rail is more expensive and increases harmful greenhouse-gas emissions and the risk of spills.
"I'm not using Canadian talking points, I'm using the science reports from the State Department," he said. "We respectfully submit, very respectfully submit that the scientists in the State Department are right."
Doer joked Canada would have an easier time convincing Americans to ship Crown Royal whisky from distilleries in Gimli, Man., in a pipeline to Texas than crude oil from Alberta down south.
"I have to say it's a little easier to get Crown Royal in a pipeline that it is in getting oil," he said to laughter from the crowd.
Heyman, who sat next to Doer as the two ambassadors delivered joint addresses to conference delegates, said he understood concerns about delays in the pipeline decision, but had nothing to report.
"Although I have no new information to share at this time, I hear and understand the concerns regarding the Keystone Pipeline issue," Heyman said.
"I assure you President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, and their respective teams, are fully aware of these concerns as well," he told the crowd.
First proposed in 2005, the pipeline would carry oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., supporting the expansion of crude oil production in the U.S. by allowing American oil producers more access to the large refining markets found in the American Midwest and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Keystone faces environmental and political opposition, while also bringing the hope of jobs and economic development to those along its route.
Doer said he's almost certain Obama will accept the scientific case in favour of Keystone and approve the project.
"I know that the president will go with science," said Doer. "I am very confident with that. I know that the president if he says no to the pipeline, he'll be saying yes to higher greenhouse gases. I can't imagine he won't go with the science."
Pacific Northwest Economic Region is a gathering of over 500 business and political leaders from 10 Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories.