OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday he does not expect the United States to reject TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Texas.
U.S. officials say they expect the government to make a final decision by the middle of the year. Green groups strongly oppose the pipeline, which they say will help boost global warming, and want President Barack Obama to block the project.
"I remain cautiously optimistic," Oliver told reporters. Canada's Conservative government, which wants Washington to approve Keystone XL, also backs industry proposals for pipelines running from the oil sands to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
Asked about the effects of a U.S. veto, he replied: "That rejection, which I do not anticipate, would give even more impetus for us to move west, to move east ... but we're not anticipating that result."
Environmentalists oppose Keystone XL because production of oil sands crude is carbon intensive. U.S. labor leaders support the pipeline for the jobs it would generate.
The Canadian government rejects the idea that developing the oil sands would cause emissions of greenhouse gases to spike. Ministers say Canada is in some ways doing more than the United States to fight global warming.
(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Vicki Allen; and Peter Galloway)
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