President Barack Obama has said he will make a final decision on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada's oil sands region to Texas refiners but several government agencies were expected to weigh-in by the end of May.A judge ruled in February that the state had unconstitutionally transferred authority to the governor's office to approve the revised route that TransCanada, the pipeline builder, has chosen for Nebraska. That decision, she said, should be made instead by the Nebraska Public Service Commission. The case is being appealed by the state attorney general.
A dispute over the proposed route of the pipeline has stalled the project in Nebraska, though, and officials will cite that uncertainty in its announcement on Friday justifying the delay.
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If the ruling is upheld on appeal, the commission could take seven months to a year to make its own decision about the pipeline route. The original route was rejected on the grounds that it went through ecologically fragile wetlands of the Nebraska sand hills. TransCanada revised it and the governor's office approved the revision. But a coalition of environmental advocates and landowners objected and took the matter to court.
Currently, the State Department is reviewing the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL. That includes evaluating public comments and the assessment of several federal departments, including the Environmental Protection Agency, which has objected to previous impact statements on the pipeline that it labeled inadequate.
Some Republicans, ignoring the legalities involved, responded as expected:
“It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.If the delay extends beyond the November midterms, as seems highly likely, it could help Democrats. If the president were to approve the pipeline before then, it could hurt Democratic turnout from the party's more liberal and environmentally active members. If he rejected it, the fallout from fossil-fuel state Democrats and union members who support building Keystone could hurt the party's chances. No decision, little impact.
He added: “Here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America—one that could create thousands of jobs right away—but the President simply isn’t interested. Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job.”