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Kerry will deliberate on Keystone XL after environmental impact analysis is done

The Valero refinery works glow in the dusk light in Port Arthur, Tex.. The state of Texas has placed a historical plaque noting that this area is near where the oil boom started in 1901. Port Arthur is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

This just in: The administration’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is coming….”before long.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the State Department’s revised Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline is still in the works and that only after it’s done can he start his deliberations.

“We are currently engaged in the Environmental Impact Statement analysis,” said Kerry before meeting with Canada’s foreign minister John Baird. “An analysis will be made with respect to the national interests ultimately, and we’re just not at that point yet. I haven’t received it. They haven’t finished it.”

Meanwhile TransCanada has completed the southern leg of the Keystone XL project, which runs from the oil terminal center of Cushing, Okla. to the Gulf Coast refiners in the Port Arthur, Tex. area. The company said Friday that it expects to start shipping oil on Jan. 22.

It’s been nearly 11 months since the State Department issued a draft of the environmental impact statement on the entire pipeline route, from the border crossing in Montana through three states to an existing junction in Steele City, Neb. The State Department is currently taking into account public comments on the EIS draft, which came out March 1, 2013. This was the second version after controversy discredited an earlier EIS and after TransCanada revised the pipeline route around the Ogallala water aquifer in Nebraska.

“There were a lot of questions that were raised in all of the public comment period, and those comments have necessitated appropriate answers,” Kerry said. “The public has a role in this. We’re all accountable to our publics. The democratic process demands that we do that. So we are doing it, and I can promise our friends in Canada that all the appropriate effort is being put into trying to get this done effectively and rapidly. And my hope is that before long, that analysis will be available, and then my work begins.”

Canada’s foreign minister was diplomatic.

“This is obvious, John and I have had discussions about this in the past,” Baird said. “Twenty-six months ago, Hillary Clinton called, explained the concerns that the Administration had, particularly with the aquifer in Nebraska.” He added, “We hope the final State Department report is out in short order, and that the Administration will be in a position to make a positive decision.”

Steven Mufson covers the White House. Since joining The Post, he has covered economics, China, foreign policy and energy.



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