File - In the is Oct. 4, 2012 file photo, large sections of pipe are shown on a neighboring property to Julia Trigg Crawford family farm, in Sumner Texas. On Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014, TransCanada said in a statement on its website that it is delivering oil through the Gulf Coast portion of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from a hub in Cushing, Okla., to Houston-area refineries. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, file)
Report: Pipeline won't impact climate
02:15 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Pipeline supporters approve, environmentalists condemn the report

The proposed oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada is politically charged

Next step is a 90-day comment period, followed by another State Department decision

President Barack Obama has said the pipeline must be carbon-neutral

Washington CNN  — 

A long-awaited State Department environmental report on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline indicates what the oil industry and its backers have been saying – it won’t have a big impact on carbon emissions that cause climate change.

The report released Friday appears to give the Obama administration the cover it needs to approve the politically charged project, but not until May at the earliest, after a 90-day review and comment period.

Environmentalists reacted with predictable fury, accusing the government of bad intent by releasing the report before an inspector general’s findings on whether it was flawed because some participants had oil industry ties.

“This document will be seen by the entire environmental community … as a sham,” complained Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, adding that “it encourages the already widely held impression that the fix was in from the beginning.”

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said Friday night that information in the report “will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary (of State John) Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead.

“A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration of the (report) and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads.”

GOP: no more stalling

Supporters, including Republican leaders who have been pushing for two years for President Barack Obama to approve the project, said now it was time to get it started.

“Mr. President, no more stalling, no more excuses,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, adding a jab at Obama’s recent pledge to act on his own this year if he can’t get congressional backing. “Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs.”

The pipeline that would transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast has been a political football, pitting the oil industry and its Republican backers against environmentalists and liberal Democrats who complain it bolsters the especially dirty fossil fuel production from the tar sands of northern Alberta. The project also has sparked protests from the political left and the environmental movement.

However, the politics get messy for Democrats, because organized labor supports the project that will create several thousand jobs.

Release of the report launched a 90-day period for public comment and consultation. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is known for his effort to combat climate change, will then determine if the pipeline project is in the national interest.

The environmental analysis makes no final conclusion on the merits of the project, but says it wouldn’t impact how much oil gets produced from Canada’s tar sands in northern Alberta.

Dirtier oil

Approval or denial of any single project was unlikely to affect how much oil gets extracted from the tar sands, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said in a conference call with reporters.

Jones noted that the oil from the tar sands was more carbon intensive than normal oil, producing 17% more carbon emissions.

Environmentalists say that is why the project should be rejected, arguing that it would continue U.S. reliance on a dirtier foreign oil at a time when Obama has pledged action against climate change.