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Does Keystone XL report let Obama off the hook on climate pledge?

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Mr. Obama has tabled the decision twice, citing environmental safety concerns in Nebraska, where the original plans had the Keystone XL stretching along the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground water supply that is the greatest irrigation source for the nation’s farmland, supplying eight states. The president ultimately blocked the pipeline’s approval in January 2012, which allowed TransCanada, the Calgary-based pipeline operator, to draft a new proposal in May.

Accompanying TransCanada’s proposal to build the pipeline were promises of job creation and improved American energy independence that make blanket opposition to the project more politically costly, perhaps, than approving it.

The State Department report, released late Friday, did not endorse a final decision on the matter. Instead, it concluded that, no matter how the oil is delivered to US markets, including by rail or tankers, the environmental impact from tar sand extraction remains relatively the same.

“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 US. Limitations on pipeline transport would force more crude oil to be transported via other modes of transportation, such as rail, which would probably (but not certainly) be more expensive,” the report read.

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