Despite report, final Keystone decision not near

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Monday, February 3, 2014 - 9:00am

A final decision on whether or not to approve the hotly debated Keystone XL oil pipeline isn't imminent, the White House chief of staff said on Sunday, despite a State Department report last week showing the project wouldn't have a major impact on carbon emissions.

That report encouraged supporters of the project, which environmentalists warn could lead to more oil spills. Obama has said that he'll only approve the pipeline if it doesn't intensify carbon pollution.

Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, appearing on Sunday talk shows, said other federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy still needed to weigh in on Keystone. The State Department report also must undergo a 90-day review and public comment period.

"He's been very clear that he's going to insulate this process from politics," McDonough said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We have one department with a study. Now we have other expert agencies ... that have the opportunity to make their determinations. The President wants to protect their ability to do that and make this decision based on the best analysis and the most sound science," McDonough continued.

The question of approving the Keystone pipeline has loomed for years, prompting supporters of the project to accuse the Obama administration of stalling. After the State Department review was published Friday, Republicans urged Obama to use his executive power -- a tool he's brandishing on the economy and education -- to OK the project.

"This is a no-brainer," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"This decision should have been made a long time ago," he told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Many of Obama's most ardent Democratic supporters have vocally opposed the Keystone pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. Environmentalists argue the chances for environmental disaster are higher since the oil extracted from tar sands is dirtier than other forms of petroleum.

But supporters, including organized labor and the government of Canada, say the project would create jobs and promote energy independence.

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