Kerry Vows Swift Keystone Action After Meeting Canadian

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Canadian counterpart for the first time yesterday and said he will decide soon on the fate of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.

“We hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term,” Kerry said after the meeting in Washington with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who stood with Kerry and called the pipeline a priority for his nation. Kerry took office Feb. 4.

Keystone XL would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Canada’s oil sands and shale fields in North Dakota to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Critics say the pipeline will add more greenhouse gases than most conventional oil drilling. Keystone backers say the project will create jobs and make the U.S. less dependent on oil from less friendly sources

A rejection of the project by President Barack Obama’s administration would exacerbate the bottleneck of shipments from Alberta’s oil sands. A shortage of pipeline capacity and rising output has widened the gap between heavy Canadian crude, which is among the cheapest in the world, and a U.S. benchmark.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a huge priority for our government and for the Canadian economy,” Baird said. “And I appreciated the dialogue we had on what we can do to tackle environmental challenges together.”

The State Department is reviewing the route proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada because the line crosses an international border. A decision on approving the pipeline rests with Obama, who in his inaugural address last week pledged to act on climate change.

Kerry, who promised to conduct an “open and transparent” review of the pipeline, declined to discuss details of the project.

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