By Ben Geman - 12/18/12 03:47 PM EST
Girling said that should not matter, as the department's previous studies on the project have concluded there will be little impact on North American greenhouse gas emissions if Keystone XL is built because Canadian oil sands production will increase regardless.
The bigger question facing the State Department, which will rule on the $5.3 billion pipeline to southern refining markets because it would cross the Canada-United States border, is where the country wants to source its crude imports – its oil-rich neighbor to the north or other less-friendly producers, Girling told Reuters in an interview.
Obama is expected to nominate Kerry to replace current Secretary Hillary Clinton, who plans to depart.
But it is not clear if Kerry would inherit the review.
The Obama administration has said it plans to make a decision in early 2013, which means it could be resolved before Kerry is confirmed to the post.
Environmentalists bitterly oppose the project and have recently said they fear that the State Department review won’t adequately weigh the climate change impact of oil sands development.
Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been cautious in his public statements about Keystone XL.
In late 2011 he vowed to “leave no question unanswered including every possible economic and environmental consideration,” but he did not state a position on the project.