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IG report clears State Department, consulting firm for Keystone XL

WASHINGTON — A report cleared the State Department and a consulting firm that completed the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., each said Wednesday that the findings clear Environmental Resources Management and the State Department from any conflict of interest. This is the second report from Inspector General Steve Linick’s office.

“With this development, the path should be clear for the State Department to issue an affirmative national interest determination based on the merit and importance of this much-needed energy infrastructure project for the nation,” Hoeven stated in a release.

The 1,179-mile pipeline would transverse North America, connecting Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The project has been postponed for five years due to protests and delays in approval, including a blessing from President Barack Obama. The most recent blow to its support came last week when a Nebraska judge struck down a state law that allowed the governor to approve the oil sands pipeline.

While Hoeven previously told The Press the decision could give Obama fuel to drag its feet on a decision, the inspector general’s report “puts this issue to bed,” Heitkamp said.

“Another box has been checked in this long, exhaustive process, and the evidence again shows that we must continue toward final approval of the Keystone XL pipeline without delay,” Heitkamp stated in a release.

It is unclear when Obama will give his decision on the pipeline.