Sen. Kerry keeps cards close to vest on Keystone pipeline

The White House faces heavy and competing pressures: Business groups and some unions are lobbying hard for approval, while climate-change activists have made rejection of Keystone a priority.

Kerry has been one of Capitol Hill’s most prominent advocates of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and Thursday noted that American foreign policy is “defined by leadership on life-threatening issues like climate change.” 

He said during the hearing that he will be a "passionate advocate" at State on climate change, and noted extreme weather that took a toll on the U.S. over the past year.

“I will be a passionate advocate about this, but not based on ideology, but based on facts, based on science,” Kerry said.

Kerry, during the hearing, framed addressing climate change in the context of development of green energy technologies, casting it as a major economic opportunity for the U.S.

“The solution to climate change is energy policy,” Kerry said. “This is a job-creator. I can’t emphasize that strongly enough”

Kerry, who is widely expected to be confirmed, would lead State at a time when the U.S. is participating in United Nations-led talks aimed at crafting a new global emissions accord. 

State also with other nations through bilateral green energy and climate partnerships.

But Kerry has not tipped his hand on Keystone, either in his Senate role or, on Thursday, as a Cabinet nominee.

“We are responsible for the environmental review, and there are specific standards that have to be met with respect to that review. I am going to review those standards and make sure they are complete,” Kerry said of State’s review.

Kerry said he would try and complete the review by the end of March, but did not promise it, noting he would check back in with State on the status.

“It is happening in the appropriate due course of business. We will try and get it done as soon as we can,” Kerry said of the pipeline review.

The State Department has said it hopes to complete the review by the end of the first quarter of 2013, but a department spokeswoman this week hinted that the timeline might slip.

This post was updated at 1:20 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.