The massive TransCanada (TRP) Keystone XL pipeline extension, long in limbo over environmental concerns, might finally get a nod, and soon.
Environmental activists and pundits have pressed President Barack Obama’s hand over the 1,179-mile pipeline that will cross the border from Canada into North Dakota. This border crossing has been the main bone of contention in the entire 2,151-mile Keystone system that will ultimately carry oil all the way down from Canada’s oil sands and into the Gulf Coast, and has caused the project to wallow sans approval for roughly five years.
However, Canada has given the U.S. an elbow today, with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, telling the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that “the time for a decision on Keystone is now.”
The prospects for approval are more promising than not. An early March 2013 draft of the final environmental impact study by the State Department showed that the pipeline didn’t have much influence of climate change or the environment. This was one of the major sticking points in the approval process, and TransCanada estimates that the final draft of the paper will support a similar conclusion.
Once that study is released, the project’s 90-day national interest determination clock begins ticking, and the Obama administration will have to come to a conclusion. That should happen by the beginning of the second quarter.
At the same time, TransCanada isn’t waiting around for the outright OK. The firm has already begun construction on the various southern legs of the Keystone that don’t require presidential approval; those will begin transporting crude oil by 2015 (though that timeline could be pushed back further). As for crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, TRP has begun exploring using a combination of rail and pipeline. Railways don’t require presidential approval and ironically would actually emit more emissions that the originally pipeline plans.
Either way, the Keystone XL — in some form or another — is coming to prairie near you. And that could mean some big things for several stocks. Here are some of the biggest winners.