The State Department’s Office of Inspector General announced Friday it does not expect to release the results of an investigation into a possible conflict of interest in the department’s Keystone XL pipeline review until January — a move that could delay a final decision on the project until next year.
Earlier this month, the OIG began an inquiry into allegations made by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that Environmental Resources Management, a consulting firm hired to produce the draft environmental impact statement for the pipeline, had ties to TransCanada Corp. and the American Petroleum Institute, two organizations with a key stake in the project.
TransCanada Corp. is the company set to build Keystone, and the American Petroleum Institute is a trade association, which publicly supports the pipeline.
The conflict-of-interest inquiry and the State Department’s review of the pipeline have been ongoing, and State has not yet said when it will make a final determination on Keystone XL. But Friday’s announcement that the OIG investigation results won’t be released until January makes it likely that a decision on the project will be pushed back to 2014.
“It is our hope to conclude work by the end of the year and release a report in January,” Douglas Welty, a spokesman for the OIG, said in an e-mail Friday. “As to the timing of the department’s decision — you need to ask them directly whether our work will have any impact on that.”
A State Department official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Any additional delays are sure to prompt an outcry from congressional Republicans, who have long accused the Obama administration of tying the project up in red tape as a concession to the Democratic party’s environmental wing. The pipeline was initially scheduled for a final decision before the 2012 presidential election, but the administration pushed it back last year, saying at the time that the environmental consequences merited further inquiry.
What We're Following See More »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.