Keystone XL pipeline decision delayed, likely until after elections
The State Department said Friday that federal agencies needed more time to comment on the project because a Nebraska court ruling had thrown the route into question. State Department officials said they couldn’t proceed until the Nebraska issues were settled. There’s no timetable for a decision at this point.
In 2012, the Obama administration said the pipeline needed more environmental review, a move that delayed the decision until after the presidential election. Now it’s liable to remain unsettled through the midterm elections, where energy development is a key issue in close congressional races as the Republicans seek to take over control of the Senate.
But Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said postponement was the right move given the legal uncertainties in Nebraska and the unprecedented number of public comments on the project. The State Department said it was in the process of reviewing roughly 2.5 million public comments on Keystone.
The 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would bring crude oil from the Canadian oil sands in Alberta to American refineries on the Gulf Coast. Plans for the pipeline are controversial because tapping the thick Alberta crude would produce more planet-warming gases than would conventional sources of oil.
The pipeline company TransCanada, which first applied for permission to build the pipeline in 2008, expressed frustration Friday at the latest delay.
“Canadian oil will make its way to market with or without Keystone XL. It is in everyone’s best interests that this project move forward,” said TransCanada President Russ Girling.
The State Department, which is leading the project review because it would cross the border with Canada, issued its final environmental assessment in January and downplayed the impact on climate change.
Other federal agencies are supposed to weigh in by May, but State Department officials said Friday that agencies couldn’t evaluate the project if they didn’t know what route it would take through Nebraska.
“The State Department is taking the most prudent course of action possible. It is already clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the climate test and will damage our climate, our lands and our waters,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
(Curtis Tate contributed to this story.)
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