Kerry wants Keystone pipeline decision in ‘near term’

The State Department is heading the federal review of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

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A department spokeswoman recently said that a decision would come at the end of March at the earliest.

Reuters, citing an unidentified U.S. official, reported in late January that a final administration decision could be pushed back until at least June.

Canadian officials, as well as business groups and a number of major unions, are lobbying for the project. TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling met with a senior State Department official on Thursday about the pipeline.

But environmentalists strongly oppose it, and some are casting the decision as a test of President Obama’s resolve on climate change.

Baird, in public remarks with Kerry after their bilateral meeting at the State Department, said the pipeline is a “huge priority.”

But both men more also sought to emphasize what has been broader cooperation on energy between the two nations. Canada is already the largest source of U.S. oil imports.

Baird noted that both nations have pledged to try and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2020, and talked up Canadian efforts to phase out “dirty” coal-fired power and other steps.

Kerry also talked up the two nations’ energy ties, even as Keystone remains unresolved.

“Canada is our largest energy supplier and our shared networks of electrical grids keep energy flowing both ways across the border,” Kerry said. “As we move forward to meet the needs of a secure, clean energy future on this shared continent, we are going to continue to build on our foundation of cooperation.”

—This post was updated at 5:10 p.m.