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
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
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 »
FISHING EXPEDITION
Some Members Seek to Wrap Up Russia Investigations by Year’s End
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."

Source:
WROTE LAW THAT WEAKENED OPIOID OVERSIGHT
Trump: Marino Withdrawing Nomination for Drug Czar
1 days ago
THE LATEST
Doesn’t Express Confidence in Marino
Trump to Declare Opioid Emergency Next Week
2 days ago
THE LATEST

After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."

Source:
IN LIGHT OF 60 MINUTES REVELATIONS
Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
2 days ago
THE LATEST
WOULD OVERTURN MARINO LEGISLATION ON DRUG DISTRIBUTORS
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login