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Keystone decision

Now that the State Department and the state of Nebraska have signed off on an expansion of the Keystone pipeline, there seems to be little reason for President Barack Obama not to approve the project as soon as possible.

That means the pipeline expansion should get this country's OK in mid-May. The State Department issued a report March 1 that raised no objections to proceeding with construction of the pipeline expansion. That report started the clock on a 45-day period for public comments, after which Obama will decide whether to approve the project.

Nebraska has some issues with the pipeline's route through that state -- it was proposed to cut through some environmentally sensitive areas -- but Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman earlier this year signed off on an alternate route that avoids the state's Sandhills region.

With the State Department and Nebraska on board, there is no reason for further delay.

Opponents of the expansion project content the Canadian crude the pipeline would transport significantly increase greenhouse gases because it is the "dirtiest" crude to be found and requires additional refining.

That said, the original pipeline has been in operation for years and is carrying the Canadian tar sands crude to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois.

Canada, having found an abundant source of oil, isn't going to stop its production. The tar sands crude will find its way to refineries and that work can create jobs at U.S. refineries and spin-off jobs.

The pipeline expansion also will create a more cost-efficient method for moving oil from fields in Montana and western North Dakota to U.S. refineries. Much of the oil from those states now is being transported by rail to refineries in the west.

The original Keystone pipeline enters the U.S. in North Dakota and runs south through that state, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas to Cushing, Okla. An intersecting line carries some crude to Patoka, Ill. The pipeline expansion, known as Keystone XL, would enter the U.S. in Montana and cut diagonally across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with the existing pipeline.

The project also calls for extending the current pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Obama already has said he doesn't object to that segment of the expansion.

Given that tar sands crude already is being refined in the U.S., and that more would be with the addition of the Oklahoma-Gulf Coast link to the existing pipeline, Obama should have an easy decision to make. He should keep in mind that the pipeline also will be carrying a lot of U.S. crude in a more economic manner, which would impact the final cost of the refined product.

It's time to approve the project and increase the flow of crude to U.S. refineries.

Editorial by the Topeka Capital Journal