UPDATE 5-Keystone report raises pressure on Obama to approve pipeline

Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:50pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON Jan 31 (Reuters) - Pressure for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline increased after a State Department report played down the impact it would have on climate change, irking environmentalists and delighting the project's proponents.

But the White House signaled late on Friday that a decision on an application by TransCanada Corp to build the $5.4 billion project would be made "only after careful consideration" of the report, along with comments from the public and other government agencies.

"The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement includes a range of estimates of the project's climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary (of State John) Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

The White House comment came after proponents of the pipeline, which would transport crude from Alberta's oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, crowed about how the State Department report cleared the way for Obama to greenlight the project.

The agency made no explicit recommendation. But the State Department said blocking Keystone XL - or any pipeline - would do little to slow the expansion of Canada's vast oil sands, maintaining the central finding of a preliminary study issued last year.

The 11-volume report's publication opened a new and potentially final stage of an approval process that has dragged for more than five years, taking on enormous political significance.

With another three-month review process ahead and no firm deadline for a decision on the 1,179-mile (1,898-km) line, the issue threatens to drag into the 2014 congressional elections in November.   Continued...