UPDATE 1-In Podesta, a Keystone skeptic returns to White House

Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:17pm EST
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By Patrick Rucker and Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON Dec 11 (Reuters) - John Podesta's return to the White House could dim prospects for the Keystone XL pipeline's approval, environmentalists said Wednesday, as the Democratic Party elder and Keystone critic crafts policies to curb climate change.

Podesta, who was chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, will have the title "counselor to the president" and chiefly advise President Barack Obama on energy and climate change issues, the White House said this week.

In the past, Podesta has aligned himself with environmentalist foes of TransCanada Corp's 1,200-mile (1,900-km) pipeline that would carry 830,000 barrels a day of oil sands crude from western Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The $5.4 billion link between Alberta oil fields and Texas refiners is expected to spur production of a fuel that environmentalists say worsens climate change.

On Wednesday, the White House said Podesta would not get involved in the question of whether to allow Keystone XL because of his well-known opposition to the project.

"He felt it was most appropriate to basically send a signal early on that this is not something that will be part of his portfolio," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Some environmentalists, however, said Podesta's concern about climate change would likely infuse discussions about Keystone XL.   Continued...