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Seeking Keystone XL Backing, Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper Pens Letter To Obama

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama on April 12, 2010 in Washington, DC.  AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama on April 12, 2010 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD



OTTAWA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trying to win U.S. backing for the Keystone XL pipeline, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama proposing joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector, CBC News said on Friday.

The White House has not responded to the letter, which was sent in late August, CBC said, although Harper met Obama briefly during the just-ended G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Obama has the final say over whether to let the pipeline cross from Canada into the United States and has said he would only approve it if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution".

The $5.3 billion pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels per day and stretch from the tar sands of northern Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, is being proposed by TransCanada Corp .

Canada's Conservative government is actively pushing development of pipelines to move oil sands crude to new markets. Green groups oppose Keystone XL because they say it will encourage expansion of production in the oil sands, which is carbon-intensive.

Harper's office told Reuters it would not comment on correspondence between leaders, but said Harper raises Keystone with Obama every time he speaks with him.

"The Keystone project is in both countries' national interests and will create jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border while increasing North American energy security," Harper spokesman Stephen Lecce said, repeating the government's traditional line.

"Canada and the U.S. have integrated economies and oil and gas sectors, which underscores the importance of continuing to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Lecce added.

The Canadian government has imposed greenhouse gas regulations in a number of sectors, but it has missed its goal of setting rules for Canada's burgeoning oil and gas sector by mid-2013.

It is this sector Harper is offering to work with Obama on, if that is what is needed to gain approval for Keystone, CBC said.

TransCanada Corp, which has been seeking a presidential permit for the project for more four years, has not seen the letter. However Shawn Howard, a spokesman for the company, said in an email that the TransCanada appreciated Canada's push to get Keystone XL approved.

"The Canadian government has been a strong ambassador for Keystone XL," he wrote.

Obama said in a New York Times interview in July that Canada could do more to mitigate carbon emissions. Canadian officials have privately expressed frustration that Obama has not specified what he wants in return for Keystone approval.

Environmentalists, opposed to the development of the huge oil sands deposits in landlocked Alberta, want Washington to block the pipeline, while Obama has dismissed Keystone's potential to create jobs.

Sierra Club Canada Executive Director John Bennett scoffed: "I don't believe for a moment that Prime Minister Harper is serious and neither should President Obama. The Harper government has done nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

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