WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was respecting the formal review process before taking a stand on the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Pipeline company TransCanada said last month it was waiting for the U.S. State Department to publish its draft environmental assessment of Keystone XL, meant to carry crude oil 1,700 miles from Canada to southern U.S. refineries.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman in January said he was satisfied a revised route for the tar sands pipeline avoided the sensitive Sand Hills area of the state, removing one of the last hurdles for the pipeline's approval. A U.S. federal decision is needed because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected to make a decision in the "near term."
"We have a legitimate process that is underway, and I intend to honor that," he said following a Friday meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
The pipeline is viewed by supporters as a way to ensure North American energy independence. Detractors say the environmental risks associated with Canadian crude oil are too great to ignore.
Baird said the pipeline is a "huge priority" for his government.
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