Keystone Pipeline
Keystone pipeline Reuters

President Barack Obama will wait at least 90 days to decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House said Sunday, after the State Department released a report Friday that concludes the oil transport project wouldn't significantly increase carbon pollution, one of Obama's main concerns.

Obama said last summer he wouldn't approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

The White House said Sunday the delay will allow the president to receive vital input from other government departments and agencies.

Some industry analysts believe the president will avoid making a decision until after the U.S. midterm elections in November in order to avoid alienating Democratic voters.

“A final decision isn’t expected until this summer and could well occur after November’s congressional election,” Kevin Hebner, of JP Morgan Chase Bank in New York, said Sunday in a research note.

The TransCanada Corp. pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels a day of asphalt from Canada’s oil sands and of light oil from North Dakota to refineries near Houston on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists have protested the project, but Western oil producers want the pipeline built so they can access new markets. The State Department’s report also suggests if the pipeline isn't built, oil would continue to be extracted at the same rate from Alberta and transported to the Gulf Coast by rail instead.

Obama’s top adviser and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said the president won’t be rushed into a decision.

“The Friday report is an important input into the process. We’ll hear from other cabinet secretaries,” McDonough told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“We have one department with a study. Now we other expert agencies,” he said. “The president wants to make his decision based on the most sound science.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has no deadline to make a recommendation to the president on whether the pipeline is in the American national interest.

Billionaire Democratic Party donor and pipeline opponent Tom Steyer wrote a letter to Kerry urging him to launch an independent investigation of the environmental impact of the pipeline. Steyer called the State Department’s report “defective” because the U.S. hired a TransCanada contractor, Environmental Resources Management, to write the report.