The State Department issued on Friday a long-awaited draft environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline project that would link Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas.
The pipeline is strongly backed by the energy industry and adamantly opposed by environmentalists. The review looked at greenhouse gas emissions related to the project and its shipping alternatives, including trucks and trains. It did not conclude which transport route was cleanest.
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Issuing an assessment that ran more than 2,000 pages, the Obama administration completed a step it had to take before a period of public comment. A final decision on TransCanada Corp's project is not expected until July or August.
Starting next Friday the review will be open to public comment for 45 days. After the State Department finalizes the review, it will determine with input from government agencies whether the pipeline is in the national interest, which could take another 90 days.
A decision on the Keystone pipeline, would carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil, has been pending for more than four and a half years.
Many environmentalists oppose the project because oil sands are more carbon-intensive to produce than average crudes used in the United States.
Supporters of Keystone say it would provide thousands of jobs, drain a glut of domestic crude oil from the North Dakota oil boom and strengthen North American energy security.