The U.S. State Department announced Friday it was ready to conduct an environmental impact statement for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The White House rejected a January proposal for the project because of concerns about the environmental effects of the pipeline through Nebraska. The company has since proposed an alternative route that avoids the Sand Hills area of the state, which hosts a major aquifer.
Russ Girling, president and chief executive officer at TransCanada, said in response that the State Department decision is an important development for the project.
"It is important to recognize that by the time a final decision on this critical piece of North American energy infrastructure is made, Keystone XL will be well into its fifth year of exhaustive and detailed studies, the most extensive review for a cross-border pipeline ever," he added.
Opponents of the Canadian pipeline project said the tar sands oil planned for Keystone XL is the dirtiest type of crude oil. Supporters say the oil supply is needed for U.S. energy security.
"The U.S. is already consuming about a million barrels of Canadian oil each day, and four years is too long to wait for construction of this pipeline to fortify that energy partnership," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.