It looks as though Montana and North Dakota are getting in on the Alberta oil sands game.

The Associated Press is reporting that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer claims the Canadian energy company TransCanada soon will host meetings to pave the way for Montana and North Dakota to gain access to a pipeline that will carry oil sand crude to the United States. The nearly 2,000-mile pipeline will travel from northern Alberta through Montana and North Dakota and then through the heart of the Mountain West region of the United States to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.

The pipeline, known as the Keystone XL, is expected to expand crude oil production in the two states. Access to refineries is said to be a major reason why the two states lag behind in oil production. If the pipeline becomes a reality, it is likely to fuel anger both north and south of the border over the environmental hazards of the Alberta oil sands.

Already, one environmental group, Rethink Alberta, is asking people to stay out of the Canadian province until the oil sands are more heavily regulated and Canada changes its energy policies to be less reliant on the demands of the United States.

Earlier in September, U.S. energy policy and the country's reliance on Canada's oil sands became a heated topic of contention as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Ottawa. The latest news about Montana and North Dakota is likely to add fuel to the environmental debate.  

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