The U.S. State Department says it has no major environmental objections to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada into U.S. territory, a project that has aroused controversy in the United States.
The report released Friday does not clear the way for beginning construction of the Keystone pipeline, a $5 billion crude-oil supply line traveling 1,900 kilometers from Canada's Alberta province to the U.S. state of Nebraska. The Keystone link would complete a supply network extending from Canadian oilfields to the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas coast.
A White House spokesman said late Friday that "a decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration" of the environmental report and a wide range of other opinions, to be gathered from the public and other government departments. Final approval of the envonmental-impact study also would be needed from Secretary of State John Kerry, who during his former career in the U.S. Senate was a strong proponent of measures to protect the environment.
President Barack Obama said six months ago that he would only allow the Keystone pipeline project to go forward if it "does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem." Observers said the State Department report appears to clear the way for him to approve the project, but an intense lobbying campaign is expected with both proponents and opponents of the project trying to influence the president.
The pipeline plan has been awaiting regulatory approval for over five years. With 11 volumes of analysis, the State Department report reaches the same conclusion as an earlier draft released 10 months ago - that the project is not likely to affect the pace of development of Canada's oil sands.