- POSTED: 01 Feb 2014 05:59
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The US State Department released a much-anticipated environmental review Friday of a controversial oil pipeline project from Canada, raising no major objections to the plan.
WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Friday released a long-awaited review of a controversial pipeline project to bring oil from Canada to Texas, suggesting it would have little impact on climate change or the environment.
The review could now pave the way for US President Barack Obama to approve the $5.3 billion, 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometre) Keystone XL pipeline, first proposed back in 2008.
The project has pitched environmental groups against the oil industry, which has argued that it will bring much-needed jobs to the United States and help fulfill the US goal of energy self-sufficiency.
US officials stressed the 11-volume report was a highly technical document meant to help inform the final decision, rather than lean in one direction or another.
But it appeared to raise no major objections to the plan, and said it would not significantly raise greenhouse gases, which are blamed for climate change.
"The analyses of potential impacts associated with construction and normal operation of the proposed project suggest that significant impacts to most resources are not expected along the proposed project route," the huge report said about the Keystone pipeline.
"Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States."
Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said he was "encouraged" by the report's conclusions.
"The benefits to the United States and Canada are clear. We await a timely decision on this project," he said.
The Keystone project aims to carry heavy crude from Alberta's oil sands south to Nebraska refineries and then onward to Texas, but it has been long delayed amid concerns that it could damage sensitive wetlands and endangered species.
The State Department insisted that oil giant TransCanada, which operates oil and gas pipelines in North America, has pledged to comply with all laws and regulations.
Environmental damage would be limited, providing that "Keystone would incorporate the mitigation measures that are required in permits issued by environmental permitting agencies into the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed project," the report said.
More than 1.9 million comments to the draft impact assessment have been sifted through to arrive at the final report.
There will now be a 90-day consultation for all government agencies, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, a keen advocate for the environment who has pressed for tackling climate change, also has to make a recommendation.
US lawmakers also lined up to call on the Obama administration to approve the project.
"Mr president, no more stalling, no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you've been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs," Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.