Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she remains confident the Keystone XL pipeline project will eventually win regulatory approval in the United States.

On Nov. 10, the State Department said it would delay the approval process for the 2,736-kilometre pipeline, proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp to carry 700,000 barrels a day of mostly oilsands crude from Alberta to U.S. refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

It's now expected to take until 2013 for a decision on whether the project gets the green light.

At an early afternoon news conference, Redford said the regulatory process is an internal American process and one that should be respected by Canadians.

She said her role during the visit would be to explain the significant measures of environmental stewardship and regulatory control as well as the enormous investments made in the oilsands in Alberta so that it can be part of the dialogue in the U.S. about future energy sources.

"I believe that the role of the government of Alberta is to be a proponent of the project, which we always have been," Redford said.

Redford said she has no regrets Alberta did not lobby directly for Keystone XL, saying that it would have been inappropriate for the province to try to influence an independent regulatory process.

She took a diplomatic tone in her comments, acknowledging that the decision ultimately lies with U.S. authorities.

"To presume that somehow the premier of Alberta could come down here into this city and absolutely change the course of an independent regulatory process that's conducted over six government departments is a little bit too rich for me," Redford said.

The department said it wanted to study alternative routes for the $7-billion project that would bypass the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area in Nebraska and avoid crossing over the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water for 1.5 million people in eight states.

Redford’s meetings in Washington will extend into Tuesday. In a news release, Redford said she planned to look for answers about why the Keystone decision was made and what happens next. 

The premier is set to meet with U.S. Speaker Majority Leader John Boehner Monday evening. It's the first time an Alberta premier has ever had the chance to meet with the U.S. speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the U.S. Congress.

Ranchers, environmentalists, Hollywood celebrities and politicians have made the project a focus of protest over several months, expressing concern not only about oil spills but also about the slow pace of developing alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy.

Keystone supporters say it will provide a boost to the economy at a critical time and also significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

With files from The Canadian Press