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As opponents testify in Washington, Harper calls proposed Alberta tarsands pipeline a "no brainer"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Regina that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was a "no brainer", while a variety of opponents were in Washington, D.C. testifying in front of Congress, making emotional appeals for the pipeline project to be stopped.  "There is no better safer and more environmentally sound source of energy than Canada,'' he said.


The Canadian Press has the story:

One by one they took to the microphones, cattle ranchers wearing cowboy hats, a retired military veteran, pipefitters, an Olympic athlete, even a Franciscan friar,  to cheer and jeer TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The U.S. State Department's final public hearing into the controversial $7 billion project was held in the U.S. capital on Friday, with those both for and against Keystone XL turning out in full force to passionately express their positions.

Dozens waited in line for their three minutes of face time before the State Department panel. By the end of the four-hour hearing, emotions spilled over as police escorted some audience members out of the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown D.C.

"Kill the pipeline!'' one shouted as a member of the Laborers' International Union of North America told the hearing why he hoped for the pipeline's approval.

"Get a haircut!'' someone yelled back.

Duelling noon-hour demonstrations were held outside the building, with the union's pipeline proponents dressed in orange T-shirts. One of them shouted: "We understand the need for renewable energy; we're not there now. It's about jobs.''

In the hearing's first hours, those speaking against the pipeline outnumbered those in favour as anyone daring to defend the project was met with outright jeers or derisive laughter, including Dave Collyer, the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Collyer urged the State Department to judge the project on facts, not rhetoric.

"As an industry we're held to a high standard,'' he said as snide peals of laughter erupted around him.

"It's what we expect of ourselves, that's what our government expects, and that's what we believe customers in the United States expect and we will continue to be held to that high standard and we'll continue to perform to that standard.''

Those representing environmental groups were among the most plentiful at the hearing, not surprising given Keystone XL has become a flashpoint for the American climate change movement.

Pipeline leaks "are not a matter of if, but when,'' Sarah Hodgdon of the Sierra Club told the hearing, adding the project was a bad deal for America and one that would simply line the pockets of TransCanada.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, launched a volley of vitriol at the State Department officials.

"Are these hearings simply a farce? Are they a parody of the public process and parody of the law?'' he asked.

Steve Anderson, a retired brigadier-general, said the American gluttony for oil is partly why two wars were launched in the past 10 years, conflicts that have killed thousands of U.S. soldiers.

"Our addiction to oil gets our soldiers killed,'' Anderson told the hearing to cheers from the crowd.

"Stop this pipeline.''

Franciscan Friar Jacek Orzechowski, in brown robes, told the hearing that the Keystone debate "ought to be influenced by the value of love.''

Mike Richter, a onetime NHL goalie who played for Team USA in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, also expressed opposition to the pipeline.

The State Department is slated to decide before the end of the year whether to approve Keystone XL as opponents keep up their attacks against both the pipeline and Alberta's carbon-intensive oilsands.

A few months ago, approval of the pipeline seemed a no-brainer given a near-universal desire in the United States to end reliance on oil from more volatile and sometimes hostile OPEC regimes.

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