Keystone XL pipeline in limbo as company asks US to suspend review of the project

The company seeking to build the Keystone XL pipeline is asking the State Department to pause its permit approval process while it works out an alternate route through the state of Nebraska.

The state had objected to the route because invoking eminent domain would have been necessary to build a portion of the pipeline. 

The Hill:

The request is almost certain to push the timeline for Keystone’s review past January 2017, when Obama’s term will be over and a new a president will take office.

The request follows TransCanada’s move in September to change its method for seeking approval in Nebraska for a process that does not involve using eminent domain and would avoid lengthy and expensive state court battles.

“We are asking State to pause its review of Keystone XL based on the fact that we have applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state,” TransCanada President Russ Girling said in a statement late Monday.

“I note that when the status of the Nebraska pipeline route was challenged last year, the State Department found it appropriate to suspend its review until that dispute was resolved,” he said. “We feel under the current circumstances a similar suspension would be appropriate.”

Beyond pushing the decision into the next president’s term, TransCanada’s move takes significant pressure off Obama to rule on the pipeline.

All major Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election have promised to approve Keystone, and all Democrats say they oppose it.

Obama in recent months has embraced arguments against the pipeline, raising hopes among environmental groups that he would reject the project.

The pipeline, proposed to run from Canada’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas, has been a lightning rod of controversy for years.

Republicans have sought to pressure Obama into approving the pipeline to cross the northern border, citing the economic benefits and friendly relations with Canada.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a leading proponent of Keystone and lead sponsor of legislation Obama vetoed that would have forced its approval, said the decision by TransCanada is a disappointing result of Obama’s delay.
“It is clear President Obama was going to deny the permit,” Hoeven said in a statement. “The costly delay has prevented the company from proceeding on a new pipeline that would have brought oil from Canada and the Bakken to U.S. refineries and jobs and revenue to local communities.”

Transcanada is hoping a Republican is elected in 2016 so the project can move forward.  In the meantime, by asking for a pause, they are preventing the State Department from killing the project altogether.

Obama could deny the request and kill the project anyway.  But the president's strategy all along has been to delay a decision as long as possible so he doesn't raise a ruckus on the right or the left.  If he approves the project, the Greens will never forgive him.  If he kills the pipeline, the right will make the salient argument that he is killing thousands of jobs along with the pipeline. 

The pause gives Obama cover to run out the clock and not make any decision at all.  And if that isn't a metaphor for this presidency, I don't know what is. 

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