UPDATE 1-Kerry says hopeful for Keystone pipeline decision soon

Fri Feb 8, 2013 4:47pm EST
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WASHINGTON Feb 8 (Reuters) - John Kerry, the new U.S. secretary of state, said on Friday he hopes his department will be able to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the near term.

Approval of the TransCanada Corp pipeline, which would link Canada's oil sands fields to refineries and ports in Texas, has been pending for four and a half years.

Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because the oil sands extraction process is carbon intensive. Backers of the project, which would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day, say it would provide thousands of jobs in the United States and increase North American energy security.

"We hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term," Kerry told reporters after a meeting with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Kerry said he pays "great respect" to the U.S.-Canada energy relationship and the importance of overall relations between the two neighbors. Canada is the top supplier of crude to the United States, the world's largest oil consumer.

The State Department is in charge of making a final decision on Keystone because the project would cross the national border. Kerry, who was a steadfast proponent of taking action on climate during his tenure as a senator, said his department has a review process underway on Keystone and he would honor it.

Baird said the two countries are on the same page on carbon emissions. "Obviously when it comes to the environment I think we have like-minded objectives," Baird told reporters. Canada and the United States have worked together on reducing vehicle and overall greenhouse gas emissions, and the two will do more work in those areas, he said.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling met with State Department officials on Thursday in Washington in an attempt to push the project forward.   Continued...