TransCanada Corp. executives say they're skeptical that Nebraska legislators will be able to frame legislation capable of rerouting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the state.
But if they do - and if delays result - oil producers and refineries will be the ones who decide how oil moves to market, said chief executive Russ Girling.
TransCanada faced questions about the new pipeline as the company reported third-quarter profit of $417 million or 59 cents a share, up from $374 million or 54 cents a share a year earlier.
Nebraska senators met Tuesday to discuss asking the company to re-route the new pipeline. Some are fearful the line could leak and contaminate groundwater - a fear the company says is baseless.
Girling told analysts it will be very difficult for lawmakers to frame legislation that affects Keystone XL, and not the hundreds of miles of other pipelines that crisscross the state.
"I'm not even sure we'll see a bill come out of committee," he said.
TransCanada also says any legislation would be unconstitutional.
Girling said he expects the U.S. State Department to give the go-ahead for the pipeline by the end of the year, after 38 months of review.
If that happens, he said the company will start construction immediately.
But he noted that if legislators succeed in re-routing the pipeline significantly, it would be subject to a review that could be as long as the 38-month process needed to establish the currently proposed route.
The company says oil companies with contracts to deliver oil, and refineries who need crude, will decide how oil gets shipped if Keystone XL is seriously delayed.
Contracts that U.S. refiners have with Venezuela and Mexico for crude oil will expire soon, Girling said.
"There will be a gap in supply that has to be filled with crude from some place. Keystone XL can fill that gap with Canadian and U.S. oil."
He warned that stopping Keystone XL, which will deliver bitumen from Alberta's oil sands, and crude from Montana to the U.S. Gulf Coast,simply means that more oil will move by rail, or by increased tanker traffic on the west coast.
Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines, said opponents of Keystone XL are being "disingenuous" when they propose different routes for the pipeline.
"The opponents of Keystone want to get the U.S. off crude oil, and they don't want to see any pipeline get built," Pourbaix said.
TransCanada also reported further minor delays in restarting two laid-up nuclear reactors at Bruce Power.
Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A station will be reconnected to the power grid a few months later than projected in the previous quarterly report.
But both are expected to return to full commercial operation at the previously announced dates, the first quarter of 2012 for Unit 2 and the third quarter for Unit 1. Both units have been laid up since 1997.
When Bruce Power first announced plans to restart the reactors, the target date for commercial operation was late 2009.
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