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Keystone XL opponent to step aside in U.S. pipeline talks

John Podesta, a new senior adviser to President Barack Obama who has spoken publicly against Keystone XL, will recuse himself from deliberations on the oil pipeline, the White House said Wednesday.

John Podesta is adviser to Barack Obama and founder of thinktank that opposes oil pipeline

John Podesta opposed the Keystone XL pipeline as president of the Center for American Progress. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/ Associated Press)

A new senior adviser to President Barack Obama will recuse himself from deliberations on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said Wednesday.

John Podesta, a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, has spoken out against the pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank that opposes the pipeline.

Podesta's hiring cheered environmental groups, who say the $7-billion US project would be a major contributor to global warming. They also worry about spills of tar sands oil, which is heavier than conventional oil.

Some Keystone supporters, including Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., expressed alarm, calling Podesta's inclusion in Obama's inner circle a possible death-knell for the pipeline. Backers say the project would create thousands of jobs and boost North American energy independence.

The Harper government and Alberta premier Alison Redford have campaigned heavily in favour of Keystone XL in Washington. The line would bring oilsands crude from Alberta to refineries in the southern U.S.

The White House says Podesta suggested that he not work on Keystone because his views are well-known.

Obama is expected to decide early next year on Keystone, which is under review at the State Department.

The White House said earlier this week that Podesta will serve a one-year post as counsellor to focus on energy and climate change issues.

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