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Prentice taking Keystone to Washington

Premier Jim Prentice reaffirmed Friday he will take the case for Keystone XL to Washington next month, hours after the Nebraska Supreme Court removed an important hurdle and one-half of the US Congress gave its nod to the pipeline.

"I will be traveling to the U.S. the first week of February to discuss Alberta's commitment to the environment and what safe pipeline and job creation can mean on both sides of the border," Prentice told media.

"The rigorous studies of the project, including the State Department's thorough environmental analysis, have recognized Alberta's progressive environmental initiatives and the numerous benefits of the pipeline."

In a junket that will include stops in Houston and Washington, D.C., Prentice intends to make Alberta's voice prominent in the final approval process.

"My role, as premier of Alberta, is to be in Washington to ensure the facts are clear and to speak to the environmental record of Alberta as a jurisdiction," he said.

"We're proud of the environmental legislation that we have, including the legislation relating to climate change."

The Nebraska Supreme Court's dismissal of a landowner lawsuit challenging the proposed route of the 1,900 km pipeline is an important step forward for Keystone, one of the last hurdles for the $7 billion project that's put the future of Canada's energy sector into the spotlight.

In a statement delivered Friday, TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling said he welcomed the Nebraska decision as it reflected the opinion of the majority of Americans.

"This decision means the approved route is valid and removes another delay in making a decision on our Keystone XL presidential permit application," Girling said in a statement Friday.

"Every aspect of this project has been extensively reviewed and we have repeatedly demonstrated how this project is in America's national interest."

Greg Stringham, vice-president of oil sands and markets for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said Friday's decision was one of the final hurdles in the six-year struggle to get the pipeline in the ground.

"It's really in the president's hands," he said. "The full congress is supporting and behind it, really the only thing that's left is for the president to make a decision."

The Nebraska decision, he said, suggests the two-thirds majority needed in Congress to overrule a presidential veto on Keystone could very well be a possibility.

While indications from the White House suggest President Barack Obama will indeed veto any approval, the Republican-controlled Congress has made approving the pipeline a priority.

The House of Representatives approved Keystone midday Friday, while the Senate is set to finish debating the project later this month.

— With files from Reuters

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