WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All 45 Republican U.S. Senators urged President Barack Obama on Friday to end delays and approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Canada's tar sands with refiners at the Gulf of Mexico.
The letter was timed ahead of the president's annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, although it is unknown if Obama will make a reference to Keystone.
"Given the length of time your administration has studied the Keystone XL pipeline and the public's overwhelming support for it, you should not further delay a decision to issue a Presidential permit," the senators wrote to Obama in an effort led by John Hoeven of North Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
First proposed in 2008, TransCanada Corp's pipeline is currently awaiting a final environmental impact statement (EIS) from the U.S. State Department, which is involved in the process because the pipeline crosses a national border.
That report was thought likely to have been released in late 2013, although there was no firm deadline. The impact statement will trigger several more steps on the path to an approval or rejection of Keystone.
"We, therefore, request that you issue the final EIS and Presidential permit approving the pipeline as soon as possible and tell us when we can expect your decision," the senators wrote.
The lawmakers noted that Obama told Senate Republicans in March that a decision on Keystone would be made before the end of 2013.
"We are well into 2014 and you still have not made a decision," they said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he was unaware of the conversation with the president that the senators cited, and he noted that the State Department was driving the process.
The 1,200 mile (1,930-km) pipeline would carry some 830,000 barrels a day from the Alberta tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The southern leg of the pipeline, from the Gulf to a storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, started operations this week.
"We need a safe and efficient system to transport crude oil in this country. The Keystone XL pipeline is a vital piece of the puzzle," the senators wrote.
Secretary of State John Kerry on January 17 offered no timetable for a decision on Keystone, but said he hoped an analysis of the thousands of public comments on its environmental impact would be done "soon.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Jeff Mason. Editing by Andre Grenon)