Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday promised a "fair and transparent" review of a Canadian company's plan to pipe oil from western Canada to refineries in Texas.
In his first comments about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline since becoming secretary of state, Kerry said he is waiting for a review begun by his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and hopes to make a decision in the "near term." The State Department has jurisdiction over the $7 billion pipeline because it crosses an international border.
Kerry, who met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on Friday, praised Canada as a close ally and the largest energy supplier to the U.S. He declined to comment on the pipeline's merits, but he said the review process begun under Clinton is well under way.
"I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term," he said.
Calgary-based TransCanada has proposed the 1,700-mile pipeline to carry oil derived from tar sands in Alberta to refineries in the Houston area.
The pipeline plan has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over climate change. Republicans and business and labor groups have urged the Obama administration to approve the pipeline as a source of much-needed jobs and a step toward North American energy independence.
Environmental groups have been pressuring President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline, saying it would carry "dirty oil" that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.
Kerry said he pays "great respect" to the importance of the U.S. energy relationship with Canada and the overall relationship between the two neighbors.
"Canada is our largest energy supplier, and our shared networks of electrical grids keep energy flowing both ways across the border. As we move forward to meet the needs of a clean energy future on this shared continent we are going to continue to build on our foundation of cooperation," he said.
Baird said he and Kerry had a good discussion on energy policy.
"Obviously, the Keystone XL pipeline is a huge priority for our government and the Canadian economy, and I appreciated the dialogue we had about what we could do to tackle environmental challenges together," he said.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
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