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State Department to sign off on Keystone XL pipeline next week

By Allen Cone
State Department to sign off on Keystone XL pipeline next week
President Donald Trump displays an executive order he signed related to the oil pipeline industry in the Oval Office on January 24. One order was a 60-day deadline to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. File Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI/Pool | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department will approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by next week -- reversing a block of the project by former President Barack Obama's administration, sources said Thursday.

President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to allow construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline to move crude oil from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. In an executive order on January 24, Trump ordered a 60-day timeline for signing, which would expire Monday.

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Tom Shannon, the State Department's undersecretary for political affairs, will sign TransCanada's permit, a senior U.S. official told CNN. Two sources also confirmed the news to Politico.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil's former chief executive, has formally removed himself from the Keystone XL process.

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White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing that he would have an update on the pipeline's status Friday.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission still must approve the pipeline's route through the state, a decision that's expected in late September.

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TransCanada said 90 percent of landowners have signed voluntary easements along the route.

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Republicans and the oil industry have pointed out its economic benefits and the construction jobs it has created.

In 2015, the State Department projected that the $8 billion project would create about 42,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, but only 3,900 construction jobs if it was built within a year. About 50 workers will maintain the pipeline.

Environmentalists have opposed Keystone XL because crude is extracted from oil sands, a process that emits 17 percent more greenhouse gases than standard extraction. They also say the pipeline would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest underground deposits of fresh water.

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In late 2015, Obama blocked the pipeline's construction on environmental grounds.

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