Earlier this month, the State Department delayed its review of the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline—a decision that set off a round of political speculation over when a final determination on the project will come. State cited a legal challenge to the proposed pipeline route that is pending a final determination in Nebraska as the reason for the delay.
"Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state," the department said in a statement.
The news has left the door open for an indefinite pause in the administration's consideration of the project, which has stalled for more than five years now. Inside the Beltway, the call led to conjecture that President Obama is seizing on the Nebraska challenge as a way to slow momentum on a project that has turned into a massive political headache for the administration.
Will the president punt on the pipeline and wait until after the midterms to make a decision? What does Obama have to lose by delaying a final determination, and what does he stand to gain? If the administration does not weigh in on the project until after the election, how is the delay set to affect vulnerable Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich, who have long pushed for the pipeline's approval?