- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2014

With the State Department preparing to release its final environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline — a move that could come as early as Friday afternoon — the White House remains determined to stay out the fight between proponents of the $7 billion project and environmental activists who vehemently oppose it.

White House press secretary Jay Carney repeatedly dodged questions on the issue on Friday, casting the consequential report as only another step in what’s been a process lasting the entirety of President Obama’s time in office.

“When that document is released, it does not or will not represent a decision. Rather, another step in the process … there will be an opportunity after the release of the [report] for both the public and other government agencies to comment before the State Department makes its final national interest determination,” Mr. Carney told reporters.

The pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands from Alberta south through the U.S. heartland en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, must be reviewed by the State Department because it crosses an international boundary.

As part of the broader approval process, State has undertaken a lengthy, detailed environmental review of the project to determine whether it will increase carbon emissions or carry other negative consequences.

State released its draft environmental report last March, finding that Keystone would not lead to significant increases in harmful emissions while also concluding it would create more than 40,000 jobs.

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The State Department’s eventual conclusion will be an important indication of whether Mr. Obama ultimately will approve the pipeline.

Thus far, he’s held off a decision for more than five years, despite intense pressure from environmentalists to squash the project and equally strong prodding from a bipartisan coalition in Congress, business and labor groups, and other proponents to approve it.

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