WASHINGTON – The White House says Prime Minister Stephen Harper shouldn’t expect any new information if he presses for details on Keystone XL next week.
Senior officials in the Obama administration say Harper will be told in private the same thing he’s hearing in public: that a process is underway, it’s not political, and it’s unclear when it will end.
The prime minister is expected to raise the long-delayed pipeline when he meets President Barack Obama next week in Mexico at a North American leaders’ summit.
The regulatory process has now entered a minimum 90-day phase where Secretary of State John Kerry will welcome input from different federal agencies, then make a recommendation to the president.
It’s not clear how much longer than 90 days it might last — and the administration insists that political meddling will only slow things down.
The Canadian government and the oil industry, for their part, hope for an answer before summer so that the construction season isn’t wasted.
The pipeline, whose southern leg is already operational, would carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta and the northern U.S. straight to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, at a cheaper price than shipping it by rail.
Keystone XL would be just one of numerous pipelines in the U.S., but it has become the focus of an intense political debate; environmentalists fear it would unlock the full potential of Canada’s oilsands, wreaking climate-change havoc.
A recent State Department report concluded that the oilsands will likely be developed at a similar pace — with or without Keystone — as long as oil prices don’t get stuck below $75 a barrel and all pipeline projects get stalled.