State aims for Keystone report next month

The State Department is aiming to release its report on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL oil pipeline sometime in February, people familiar with the evaluation told The Wall Street Journal

The report is the first indication of when the State Department will conclude its years-long study of the controversial pipeline extension that would carry oil from Canadian refineries to the Gulf Coast.

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It also sets up an accelerated timeline that could lead to a final decision on the project before the midterm elections.

Once the State Department releases its environmental study, the department begins a three-month review process examining whether the pipeline is within the nation's interest.

After that, the president could issue his final determination on the project.

The White House has refused to publicly comment on the progress of the pipeline's evaluation in recent weeks, citing the ongoing State Department evaluation.

“I don’t want to get ahead of that,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week. “I think that once the process is moving forward, we’ll apprise you of that, and when a decision is made, we’ll announce it.”

The president is likely to upset a key liberal constituency no matter what decision is made. Environmental groups have protested the construction of the pipeline, warning about the potential impact of an oil leak. They also argue that completing the pipeline would undermine efforts to transition to cleaner alternative energy by enabling the easy flow of tar sands oil.

But major unions have endorsed the project, saying it would create thousands of new jobs for construction workers.

Republicans, who have argued that the president should approve the project, said they were skeptical Obama would make the decision by summer.

“I'll believe it when I see it,” tweeted Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). 

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