* State Dept will not decide on project before end of March

* Nebraska approves TransCanada’s new path

* Environmentalists oppose project for its carbon emissions

* TransCanada says southern leg of project on schedule

By Timothy Gardner and Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) – The Obama administration has delayed a decision on TransCanada Corp’s rerouted Keystone XL oil pipeline until after March, even though Nebraska’s governor on Tuesday approved a plan for part of the line running through his state.

“We don’t anticipate being able to conclude our own review before the end of the first quarter of this year,” said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman at the State Department, which had previously said it would make a decision by that deadline.

She said the department would take into consideration approval of the line by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.

Interest in The fate of the $5.3 billion pipeline that would link Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas has been heightened after President Barack Obama promised to fight climate change.

Obama said in his inaugural address on Monday the United States will respond to the threat of climate change and that failure to do so would “betray our children and future generations.”

The Keystone pipeline is staunchly opposed by environmentalists, who say it will lock the United States for 50 years into dependence on fuel that has higher emissions than average crude oil refined in the United States.

They want the State Department to re-examine the climate impact of the line after it previously said the project would not result in additional emissions because the oil would find its way to market even if Keystone were not built.

It was the latest delay on the pipeline, which has been pending for more than four years.

Last year Obama threw his support behind the southern section of the line, which is now being built and would help drain a glut of crude in the nation’s midsection resulting from new oil drilling in North Dakota.

The State Department will rule on a final permit for the northern section of the line because it would cross the national border.

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