After waiting seven years for a decision, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas has asked the U.S. State Department to suspend its review of the project. The move comes as the Obama administration increasingly appears likely to reject the pipeline permit application before leaving office in January 2017.
TransCanada said Monday it had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the State Department suspend its review of the pipeline application. Until recently, it would have been unimaginable for the Calgary, Alberta-based company to ask for a delay.
The pipeline company said such a suspension would be appropriate while it works with Nebraska authorities to secure approval of its preferred route through the state that is facing legal challenges in state courts. TransCanada anticipated it would take seven to 12 months to get route approval from Nebraska authorities.
The State Department review is mandated as part of the application process because the $8 billion pipeline crosses an international border. The State Department does not have to grant TransCanada’s request for a pause in the review and instead can continue the process.
“We have just received TransCanada’s letter to Secretary Kerry and are reviewing it. In the meantime, consideration under the Executive Order continues,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
The White House declined to comment, referring all questions to the State Department.
Ahead of TransCanada’s announcement Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obamaintended to make a decision on the pipeline before his presidency ends in January 2017, although he declined to elaborate on the timeline. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her main challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination are already on record as opposing Keystone. All of the leading Republican presidential candidates support the pipeline.
Some pipeline opponents contend that TransCanada hopes to delay the review process in hopes that a more sympathetic Republican administration will move into the White House in 2017 and approve it.
“In defeat, TransCanada is asking for extra time from the referees, and clearly hoping they’ll get a new head official after the election. It’s time for the current umpire, President Obama, to reject this project once and for all,” said environmental activistBill McKibben, co-founder of the group 350.org.
Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska, which opposes the pipeline project, also said TransCanada is only asking for a pause because they hope a Republican president will approve the pipeline.
For seven years, the fate of the 1,179-mile (1,900-kilometer) long pipeline has languished amid debates over climate change and the intensive process of extracting Alberta’s oil and U.S. energy security
Keystone has long been a flashpoint in the U.S. debate over climate change. Critics oppose the concept of tapping the Alberta oil sands, saying it requires huge amounts of energy and water and increases greenhouse gas emissions. They also express concern that pipeline leaks could potentially pollute underground aquifers that are a critical source of water to farmers on the Great Plains.
Read more: sfgate.com