BY NEELA BANERJEE
January 31, 2014, 3:02 p.m.
WASHINGTON — A long-awaited environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline released Friday by the State Department found the project would have a negligible impact on climate change, bolstering the case for the controversial project as it heads to the White House for a decision on its construction.
During a sweeping speech on climate change last June, President Obama said his main criterion for approving the pipeline was that it not significantly worsen the problem of carbon pollution.
Because the northern stretch of Keystone XL, which would carry 830,000 barrels a day from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb., would cross a U.S. border, it needs a so-called presidential permit from the State Department. But Obama has said that he would make the final decision.
A senior State Department official was careful to note that the environmental review took no position on whether to approve the pipeline, saying: “Its analysis is only one factor in the final determination, which will also weigh national security, foreign policy and economic issues.”
Federal agencies now have 90 days to submit comments about the final assessment, while a 30-day public comment period runs concurrently. Then the president will have to determine whether Keystone XL is in the “national interest” based on those analyses, which will include one from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been critical of the State Department’s previous reviews.