WASHINGTON - Susan Rice's would-be path to the U.S. State Department hit another snag on Wednesday following revelations that she owns significant stock in Calgary-based TransCanada, the energy giant hoping to win approval from the Obama administration to build its Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department is in charge of making a final decision on the $7 billion pipeline since it crosses an international border.

If Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is tapped to be Hillary Clinton's replacement as secretary of state — and subsequently survives the nomination process in the U.S. Senate — she'd be in a potential conflict-of-interest situation.

As first reported by On Earth, an environmental news website affiliated with the Natural Resources Defence Council, Rice holds substantial investments in several Canadian oil companies and financial institutions.

Many of them stand to gain from both the pipeline and the expansion of Alberta's oilsands.

Financial disclosure records show that Rice, who's married to a Canadian, owns stock valued between US$300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada (TSX:TRP).

The records also show that about a third of Rice's personal wealth — estimated to be as high as $43 million — is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators and other Canadian energy companies.

Rice is married to Ian Cameron, a television producer who once worked for the CBC. Financial disclosure documents show the couple has at least $1.25 million invested in four of Canada's biggest oil and energy companies, including Enbridge, Encana and Suncor.

Their investment portfolio, indeed, is swimming with Canadian firms, including the Bank of Montreal, the Bank of Nova Scotia, BCE Inc., Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Tire, Maple Leaf Foods, Research In Motion, the Royal Bank of Canada and Royal Trust Corp. of Canada.

The Royal Bank has been in hot water for years with environmentalists over its support for the development of the oilsands.

It was labelled Canada's most environmentally irresponsible company by the Rainforest Action Network two years ago. The bank subsequently agreed to start consulting with First Nations before funding energy projects that pose environmental threats to their communities.

Ron Seifert, a spokesman for the Tarsands Blockade group, said Wednesday that Rice's financial interest in TransCanada should raise serious alarm bells about any potential State Department nomination.

"It's a tremendous conflict of interest," he said.

"I wish I could say I was surprised, but from the outset this project has been rife with political collusion. This is sadly par for the course, and we hope there would be some integrity from the administration and they'd either decide against appointing her or she'd agree to divest herself immediately."

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council said if appointed, Rice's situation would not be unusual.

"There are rules to ensure Senate-confirmed appointees have no conflicts of interests ... there is a process for dealing with it," she said.

"We hope Susan Rice would essentially ensure she has no interest in the companies associated with the pipeline ... We trust she would divest or put these monies into some kind of closed trust if she was to be appointed."

Indeed, if Rice ultimately got the State Department job, federal ethics officials would likely order her to sell her TransCanada stock and shares in related companies.

John Kerry, another Democrat in the running for the State job, owns no shares in TransCanada. The buzz in the U.S. capital, however, has the longtime senator headed to the Pentagon to replace Leon Panetta as defence secretary.

U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly favours Rice to replace Clinton at State; he praised her as "extraordinary" earlier Wednesday during a cabinet meeting.

But she's facing a rough ride from Republican senators who have been maligning her for weeks for her public remarks following the eruption of anti-American violence in Libya.

Chris Stevens, the U.S. envoy to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rice initially insisted the attacks were the result of a spontaneous eruption of violence over an anti-Islam video made in the U.S.; it was later determined that it was a pre-meditated terrorist attack by al-Qaida operatives.

She met with her Republican critics on Capitol Hill earlier this week in a supposed charm offensive that backfired badly when they emerged from the meeting to say they had even graver concerns about Rice's post-attack remarks after hearing her explanation. Rice has said she was working off information provided to her by intelligence agencies.

She suffered another blow on Wednesday, when moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she too had misgivings about Rice's potential nomination. Obama would need Collins' vote if Rice is to get confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The re-election of Obama has put Keystone XL back on the radar in the United States. The pipeline would bring 700,000 barrels of carbon-intensive oilsands crude a day from Alberta, through six states and to Gulf Coast refineries.

The oil industry is cautiously optimistic the president will now approve the project he stalled in January, when he dismissed TransCanada's application until after the November election.

Obama cited concerns about the risks posed to an environmentally sensitive area in Nebraska by the pipeline's original route.

The president invited TransCanada to submit another application after rerouting the pipeline around Nebraska's Sandhills, necessitating another State Department environmental review of the project.

After working closely with Nebraska officials to develop a new route, the company submitted another application in May.

Public hearings into the new route are scheduled for next month, and then Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman will review it. TransCanada, consequently, could know the fate of Keystone XL in just a few months.

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  • John Kerry (2013-Present)

    John Kerry leaves a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup on Jan. 29, 2013 after a vote was held on his confirmation as Secretary of State. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Hillary Clinton (2009-13)

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a press conference on November 14, 2012. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Condoleezza Rice (2005-09)

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks about the State Department's 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices during a March 11, 2008 briefing in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Colin Powell (2001-05)

    U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks on June 22, 2004, about a corrected version of an inaccurate terrorism report issued by the government. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Madeleine Albright (1997-2001)

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivers a Russia policy briefing on September 16, 1999 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Warren Christopher (1993-97)

    U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher briefs reporters on the peace process in Bosnia during a Dec. 8, 1995 press conference. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Lawrence Eagleburger (1992-93)

    Then-acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger listens to a reporter's question during a Nov. 18, 1992 news conference at the State Department. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • James Baker (1989-92)

    James Baker III waves to his associates at the US State Department on August 13, 1992. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • George P. Shultz (1982-89)

    U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz listens to a question during his first day of testimony before Iran-Contra investigators on July 23, 1987 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Alexander Haig (1981-82)

    Alexander Haig, Secretary of State-designate, a Reagan nominee on Monday, Dec. 23, 1980 in Washington for the announcement of selections. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Edmund Muskie (1980-81)

    (Pictured left) Freed hostage Richard Queen, right, greets well wishers at the State Department on Monday, July 21, 1980 in Washington. At left is Secretary of State Edmund Muskie. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Cyrus Vance (1977-80)

    Cyrus Vance, U.S. Secretary of State, pictured in 1979. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Henry Kissinger (1973-77)

    Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announces during an April 29, 1975 press conference in Washington that the evacuation of Americans from Vietnam and Saigon is complete, thus ending US involvement. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • William P. Rogers (1969-73)

    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, left, and Secretary of State William P. Rogers begin talks at the Department of State on Feb. 7, 1972 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Dean Rusk (1961-69)

    Secretary of State Dean Rusk is shown during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on March 1, 1962. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Christian Herter (1959-61)

    President Dwight Eisenhower, left, says goodbye to Secretary of State Christian Herter in Gettsburg, Pennsylvania, on May 2, 1959 as Herter is about to board a helicopter on the President's farm to return to Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • John Foster Dulles (1953-59)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (left) gets together with South Korean President Syngman Rhee in Seoul on August 4, 1953. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Dean Acheson (1949-53)

    U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson speaks from the State Department on Nov. 29, 1950 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • George C. Marshall (1947-49)

    Gen. George C. Marshall poses in his Red Cross office on Sept. 13, 1950 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • James F. Byrnes (1945-47)

    James F. Byrnes, United States Secretary of State, links arms with Associated Press correspondent, John Hightower, at Central Hall, Westminster in London, Jan. 15, 1946. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Edward Reilly Stettinius (1944-45)

    France's Foreign Minister Georges Bidault makes a VE Day radio statement from the Opera House in San Francisco, CA, May 8, 1945. Seated at the far right U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>) <em><strong>Correction</strong>: An earlier version of this text misspelled Stettinius' surname.</em>

  • Cordell Hull (1933-44)

    U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt is greeted by Secretary of State Cordell Hull on Sept. 15, 1938 in Washington. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Henry Lewis Stimson (1929-33)

    Henry Lewis Stimson, American Secretary of State for War shown around July 1931. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Frank B. Kellogg (1925-29)

    Former United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on Aug. 17, 1936 at Waterloo Station in London. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)

  • Charles Evans Hughes (1921-25)

    (Center) Former Secretary of State and Chief justice Charles Evans Hughes, pictured on on March 27, 1931. (Source: <a href="http://www.state.gov/secretary/former/">U.S. Department Of State</a>)