Keystone XL Review Delayed Again

A final decision on the pipeline may not come until after November’s elections.

Business groups are pushing President Obama to approve the cross-border leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
National Journal
Ben Geman
April 18, 2014, 11:21 a.m.

The State De­part­ment an­nounced Fri­day af­ter­noon that it’s ex­tend­ing its dead­line for re­view of the pro­posed Key­stone XL oil-sands pipeline, a move that could punt a fi­nal de­cision un­til after the midterm con­gres­sion­al elec­tions.

State said it told fed­er­al agen­cies that they will have more time to weigh in on the pro­posed north­ern leg of Tran­sCanada’s pipeline, a pro­ject that’s at the heart of an in­tense polit­ic­al and lob­by­ing fight. 

The de­part­ment is cit­ing an on­go­ing Neb­raska court battle over the state law used to ap­prove the route through that state as reas­on to ex­tend its re­view.

“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 State De­part­ment said in its an­nounce­ment Fri­day.

The move ex­tends what has been the highest-pro­file en­vir­on­ment­al battle in years. The delay ap­pears likely to push the fi­nal White House de­cision on the polit­ic­ally ex­plos­ive pro­ject bey­ond the Novem­ber elec­tions.

A seni­or State De­part­ment of­fi­cial de­clined to provide a re­vised timeline, not­ing the un­cer­tain­ties of the leg­al pro­cess. 

A court de­cision that re­quires a dif­fer­ent route through Neb­raska could al­ter the en­vir­on­ment­al, so­cioeco­nom­ic, and cul­tur­al is­sues that agen­cies are as­sess­ing, the of­fi­cial told re­port­ers on a call.

One en­vir­on­ment­al­ist track­ing the court case said a fi­nal rul­ing may not ar­rive un­til the be­gin­ning of 2015.

“We … be­lieve that the pos­sib­il­ity that Key­stone XL’s fate won’t be de­cided un­til after Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tions has in­creased dra­mat­ic­ally,” the con­sult­ing firm Clear­View En­ergy Part­ners said in a note Fri­day.

State’s fi­nal en­vir­on­ment­al re­view, re­leased in late Janu­ary, had opened a 90-day win­dow for oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies to com­ment ahead of a fi­nal White House de­cision. It also brought a large num­ber of pub­lic com­ments that State says it’s weigh­ing.

“Dur­ing this time we will re­view and ap­pro­pri­ately con­sider the un­pre­ced­en­ted num­ber of new pub­lic com­ments, ap­prox­im­ately 2.5 mil­lion, re­ceived dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment peri­od that closed on March 7, 2014,” the de­part­ment said.

Key­stone sup­port­ers slammed the latest delay in what has been a five-year-plus re­view of the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Al­berta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies.

“Today’s de­cision by the Ad­min­is­tra­tion amounts to noth­ing short of an in­def­in­ite delay of the Key­stone Pipeline. This de­cision is ir­re­spons­ible, un­ne­ces­sary and un­ac­cept­able,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is locked in a tough reelec­tion fight.

The new delay also drew im­me­di­ate cri­ti­cism from Re­pub­lic­ans who are push­ing for Key­stone XL’s ap­prov­al. 

Landrieu and Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Ho­even of North Dakota said the delay will fuel their ef­forts to win a per­mit for Key­stone XL through con­gres­sion­al ac­tion. “I will con­tin­ue to work with my col­leagues to ap­prove this im­port­ant en­ergy pro­ject con­gres­sion­ally rather than let the pres­id­ent de­feat it with end­less delays,” Ho­even said in a state­ment.

An aide to a Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or who op­poses the pipeline said the polit­ic­al im­plic­a­tions of the delay on the ul­ti­mate de­cision are tough to game out, but be­lieves it may make a re­jec­tion more likely.

“Read­ing the tea leaves on how something like this af­fects Key­stone is about as easy as it is to clean up a tar-sands spill. You could make the case that it is good for the op­pon­ents, as it shows the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s will­ing­ness to look at all of the angles to build the best case against it, without en­dan­ger­ing those sen­at­ors who are vul­ner­able to a re­jec­tion de­cision,” the aide said.

“Or you could make the case that this is good for those who want it ap­proved, be­cause they don’t want any ex­cuses left to chal­lenge its con­struc­tion,” the source ad­ded.

En­vir­on­ment­al­ists bit­terly op­pose the pipeline, while oil-in­dustry and busi­ness groups and a num­ber of uni­ons are lob­by­ing in fa­vor of it.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
23 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×