Kerry says he hasn't prejudged Keystone

Lauren Schneiderman

Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime environmental advocate, said Thursday he is approaching his coming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline with a blank slate.

"I am not at liberty to go into my thinking at this point — it is just not appropriate — except to say I am approaching this tabula rasa," Kerry said.

When testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department's 2015 budget request to Congress, Kerry found himself answering questions on the pending Keystone XL decision.

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), an advocate of the oil sands pipeline, used much of her time to press Kerry on the benefits of the project.

"It is hard for us to even understand why there is a question about whether this infrastructure is in the national interest,” Landrieu, who faces reelection this year, said.

Kerry said he is getting feedback from eight agencies, referring to the final stage of his department's review of the pipeline. If the evaluation continues without delay, it should wrap up in 60 days, after which Kerry will send his recommendation to President Obama.

Opponents of Keystone XL have been quick to paint Kerry, a prominent figure at the forefront of the fight against climate change, as a key decision maker who will likely be on their side, often noting his strong rhetoric.

Last month, Kerry called climate change a "weapon of mass destruction," which some hope is a sign of which way he will swing on Keystone.

In recent weeks, green groups have made multiple personal pleas to Kerry. Last week, young activists met with State Department officials and sent a letter to the secretary.  

"We dare to believe that it’s not just an accident of history that this recommendation falls to you," the letter said, citing his 1971 testimony before Congress against the Vietnam War.

While Kerry may have a history of being pro-green and using harsh words to describe climate change, he has been careful to give no hints as to how he will land on the pipeline. 

Erik Wasson contributed.