U.S. policymakers are weighing arguments as they await a decision on whether the Keystone XL, a cross-border pipeline planned by TransCanada, wins federal approval.
NRDC attorney Anthony Swift said that tar sands oil, the type designated for the pipeline, could increase the risk for pipeline leaks. Current systems to detect leaks might not work in pipelines like Keystone, he told a U.S. House of Representatives committee.
Lawmakers supporting the project said it would enhance North American energy independence while providing a source of economic stimulus.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the project has been "thoroughly evaluated" by state and federal agencies and "should be approved immediately."
Swift said Keystone XL is a fundamental part of the industry's plans to expand oil production but there are environmental concerns that must be considered. He said production tied to the pipeline would be the emissions equivalent of about 51 coal-fired power plants.
"The first step in addressing climate change is to stop making the problem worse and that means rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the higher carbon emissions associated with it," he said.