By KEITH JOHNSON and TENNILLE TRACY
WASHINGTON -- A State Department official said Friday that
the department's review of the long-delayed Keystone XL
pipeline doesn't reach any firm conclusions about the
environmental impact of the pipeline.
Kerri-Ann Jones of the State Department was speaking after
the release of a lengthy draft environmental review of the
pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the US.
In one possible favorable sign for project supporters, the
draft assessment said that building the pipeline would not
"significantly" impact the further development of Canada's tar
sands or US demands for heavy oil. Environmentalists have
attacked the project because, they say, further
tar sands development would be economically challenging without
The Obama administration likely will not make a final
decision on the pipeline until this summer at the earliest. The
State Department said the preliminary environmental review
would be subject to 45 days of public comment, and it said it
wouldn't issue conclusions now.
"We" re not going to come out and make those conclusions at
this point, until we engage with the public and really get some
feedback. We have found that there are in some cases impacts,
in some cases those impacts can be mitigated," Ms. Jones said.
She called for a "fuller public debate before we move
The Obama administration rejected the pipeline in early 2012
after Congress set a decision deadline he called unworkable.
That prompted Canadian firm TransCanada to resubmit a permit
application for a revised pipeline route.
Approval of the project could help consolidate the
North American energy boom by making it easier to move about
800,000 bpd of crude oil from the Canadian province of Alberta
to the US Gulf Coast for refining. Approval would also smooth
relations with Canada, which is eager to see greater pipeline
construction to speed its crude to
However, approving the pipeline carries significant
political risk for the Obama administration. Many big
environmental groups have long opposed the project, both in its original form
because it would have crossed an ecologically sensitive aquifer
in Nebraska and because producing crude oil from tar sands
creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than regular crude-oil
Last month, environmentalists staged a large protest in front
of the White House urging Mr. Obama to block the pipeline.
TransCanada revised the route for Keystone XL last year to
address the Nebraska ecological concerns. Nebraska Gov. Dave
Heineman approved the new route in January.
Energy analysts believe Mr. Obama could approve the pipeline
and still assuage environmentalists by taking more aggressive
steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions elsewhere. In his State
of the Union address, Mr. Obama said that he would use
executive actions in the absence of congressional action to
limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency is already preparing
rules that would put sharp limits on the amount of carbon
dioxide that new power plants can emit.
Dow Jones Newswires