08/14/2013 03:51 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 03:52 EDT

TransCanada Rejects Tom Steyer's Challenge For Keystone XL Debate

Russ Girling, chief executive officer of TransCanada Corp., speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. A U.S. rejection of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline would exacerbate a bottleneck of shipments from Alberta's oil sands that has made Canadian heavy oil among the cheapest in the world. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A live debate on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline between TransCanada's boss and a San Francisco billionaire was rejected by the company.

Tom Steyer, an ardent critic of the project and a major Democratic financier, challenged TransCanada CEO Russ Girling to a debate on the merits and faults of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"Let's have a real, substantial conversation about the issues at hand, and have the viewing public and have the public decide for themselves as to which of us is in possession of the more persuasive and the more important argument," said Steyer.

TransCanada stated that Steyer was welcome to provide his views on the pipeline but the company respected the environmental review process put in place by the U.S. Department of State.

"Mr. Steyer is free to provide his views to the State Department during the National Interest Determination period that will begin with the release the Final Supplemental [Environmental Impact Statement],” TransCanada spokesman James Millar said, according to The Hill.

Earlier this year, Steyer teamed up with a coalition of environmental groups on an anti-pipeline social media campaign against TransCanada, a company they accuse of wanting “to reap billions in profits by getting the United States to allow the shipping of dirty tarsands oil across America’s heartland for export to China and beyond while the United States will get very little in return.”

A draft State Department report earlier this year raised no major environmental red flags with the proposal, which had been rerouted to reduce some of the ecological impact in Nebraska.

U.S. President Barack Obama — who has final say over the pipeline — has expressed skepticism that the pipeline will be a significant job creator.

With files from The Canadian Press

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