Keystone Pipeline
The Keystone pipeline requires a presidential permit to be built. Reuters

The head of Canadian energy company TransCanada Corporation (NYSE:TRP) said Thursday that the timeline for U.S. approval of the multibillion-dollar Keystone XL crude oil pipeline will make the second half of 2015 start date of operations challenging, Bloomberg reports Thursday.

TransCanada is waiting on an environmental impact statement from the State Department, which may come in weeks, but the company still needs to wait on a 90-day review on whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.

“I hope a decision can be made this year,” TransCanada Corp. (TRP) head Russ Girling, said.

If and when the project is approved, the energy company would need 24 months to build the pipeline that would extend from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Environmental groups are up in arms over the project and have been fighting to stop construction for years.

Recently, an environmental group, Friends of the Earth, uncovered what it said are several conflicts of interest with a company that the State Department used to conduct an environmental assessment of the pipeline. The group is calling for a new review over its findings.

“Keystone is not the driver of whether Canadian oil sands will be produced,” Girling said. “They will be produced anyway.”

Environmental groups raise another concern over the potential that there could be oil spills from pipelines. But Girling said that “Pipelines are the safest way to transport large volumes of hydrocarbons over long distances.”