White House: Keystone pipeline review needs time

Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:03pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis and Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Thursday that finding an alternate route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas would take time and any effort to circumvent the approval process would be "counterproductive."

President Barack Obama faces a February 21 deadline set by Congress to either allow TransCanada's $7 billion pipeline to be built or determine the project is not in the national interest of the United States.

Speculation in Washington is rampant on how Obama will address the tricky political question, which divides two key parts of his base during an election year.

Most labor unions support the project, which will bring their members jobs. But Green groups have made defeating it a top priority because processing Canadian oil sands into crude produces carbon emissions.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether the deadline would force the Obama administration to reject the project, but he reiterated concerns about a hastened environmental review.

"There is a reason why this process has within it the duration required to properly review all the different aspects of a project like this, and to weigh all the different criteria," Carney told reporters.

He said an alternate route had not been mapped out for the pipeline through Nebraska, where environmental concerns are rampant. He said the state of Nebraska needed six to nine months to do its own environmental assessment.

Bill McKibben, who has led protests against the pipeline at the White House, said on Thursday his group 350.org will hold protests against members of Congress who have taken campaign contributions from large oil companies, both in Washington and at their home districts.   Continued...