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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration could save time in evaluating any new Canada-to-Texas crude oil pipeline if it hewed closely to the Keystone XL proposal, but any assessment would take at least 12-18 months, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.
The Obama administration on Wednesday rejected the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas crude oil pipeline project, a decision welcomed by environmental groups but blasted by the domestic energy industry and congressional Republicans.
U.S. President Barack Obama said TransCanada's application for the 1,700-mile (2,740-km) pipeline was denied because the State Department did not have enough time to complete the review process.
The State Department noted that a new application could be submitted, leaving open the possibility that TransCanada could, if it chose, keep the project alive by designing a new route.
A U.S. official told Reuters that a similar route could be evaluated more quickly because of work already done but he said that a new assessment could not be completed in less than 12-18 months.
"When it comes time to prepare the environmental documents, an agency can taken account of the existing environmental documents ... and that obviously has the potential to save some time and resources in doing a subsequent review," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Obama administration said on November 10 it would study a new pipeline route, delaying any final approval beyond the U.S. 2012 election and sparing Obama a politically risky decision for now.
At the time, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said that studying a new route for the pipeline would likely take 12-18 months, putting a final decision after Obama's bid for re-election on November 6.
"We would just be speculating in terms of how long it might take from a new application to completion without knowing what might be different," said the U.S. official, saying any evaluation could not be done in less than 12-18 months.
"One can't just transpose that amount of time that we had estimated for doing the analysis of alternative routes in Nebraska to how long it might (take) to do a review of something from the beginning," he added.
Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara