By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON, April 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department will on Friday extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, said sources familiar with the plans, likely postponing a final decision on the controversial project until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
President Barack Obama has said he will make a final decision on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada's oil sands region to Texas refiners but several government agencies were expected to weigh-in by the end of May.
A dispute over the proposed route of the pipeline has stalled the project in Nebraska, though, and officials will cite that uncertainty in its announcement on Friday justifying the delay.
By linking Canadian fields to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon to an energy patch where oil sands are abundant but lead to more carbon pollution than many other forms of crude.
Keystone's foes say that burning fossil fuels to wrench oil sands crude from the ground will worsen climate change, and that the $5.4 billion pipeline, which could carry up to 830,000 barrels a day, would only spur more production.
State Department officials were expected to brief lawmakers on Friday afternoon and formally announce the move afterwards. (Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Sandra Maler)