Obama won’t rush Keystone decision, White House says – by Barrie McKenna (Globe and Mail – February 3, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Barack Obama is refusing to give Ottawa the quick answer it wants on the Keystone XL pipeline in spite of a State Department report that dispels the U.S. President’s main climate-change fears.

The White House said Sunday it will wait at least another 90 days to make a final decision as it awaits vital input from other government departments and agencies, raising the possibility that the U.S. President may avoid a decision on the controversial project until after the November U.S. midterm elections for fear of alienating Democratic voters.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department answered Mr. Obama’s main concerns about climate change by concluding that the TransCanada Corp. pipeline would not significantly boost greenhouse gas emissions or Canadian oil sands output.

But White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Mr. Obama’s top adviser, insisted the President is still looking for more guidance and won’t be rushed into a quick decision. Keystone XL would carry 830,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands and light oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to the massive refining complex on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Western oil producers are eager for expanded pipeline capacity to access new markets and avoid bottlenecks in the U.S. Midwest, but there has been significant opposition from environmentalists.

“The Friday report is an important input into the process. We’ll hear from other cabinet secretaries,” Mr. McDonough told NBC’s Meet the Press.

“We have one department with a study. Now we have other expert agencies … The president wants to make his decision based on the most sound science,” said Mr. McDonough.

Asked about the risk of a decision stretching beyond the election, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver borrowed a hockey analogy, telling CTV’s Question Period that he hoped Mr. Obama won’t “rag the puck.”

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Oliver acknowledged the decision is political and not tied to the findings of any one report. “I think everyone understands that it’s the President who is going to decide on this, irrespective of the process,” Mr. Oliver said.

Nonetheless, he said Ottawa expects “an expeditious decision.”

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