A Texas court has lifted a temporary restraining order on construction of a small portion of the controversial Keystone pipeline, operator TransCanada said Thursday.
Landowner Michael Bishop sought the injunction out of concern that the Canadian tar sand oil that will eventually be transported by the pipeline is more hazardous than typical crude oil and would be harder to clean up in case of a spill.
His concern is echoed by environmentalists, who also oppose the project because exploiting the tar sands requires energy that generates a large volume of greenhouse gases.
TransCanada dismissed Bishop’s concern and noted that previous court rulings have determined that the tar sand oil fits within the state’s definition of crude oil.
“While professional activists and others have made the same claims Mr. Bishop did today, oil is oil,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in a statement.
Bishop, whose property is in rural Nacogdoches County, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of Houston, had previously opposed the pipeline, the Houston Chronicle reported.
But TransCanada said it had reached an easement agreement with Bishop three weeks ago that included a “significant compensation package” and allowed the firm to use his property for the pipeline.
“We recognize that not everyone will support the construction of a pipeline or other facilities, but we work hard to reach voluntary agreements and maintain good relationships with landowners,” Howard added.
“If we didn’t have a good relationship with more than 60,000 landowners across our energy infrastructure network, we wouldn’t be in business.”
TransCanada will seek to prevent Bishop from “interfering with our ability to exercise our easement rights” at a hearing on Wednesday, where a Texas judge will also hear Bishop’s claims for relief.
President Barack Obama denied approval for the $7 billion pipeline earlier this year and the US State Department asked for a new route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
TransCanada began work in August on a 485-mile pipeline between Oklahoma and the Texas coast that does not require US presidential approval.
The US State Department is currently reviewing the company’s revised application for a permit to proceed with the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska and is expected to announce a decision early next year.
Canada is already the largest energy exporter to the United States. The Keystone XL pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day to the Gulf Coast.