Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL

Wisconsin Gazette

The U.S. Department of State notified eight federal agencies that it will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Agencies, according to the State Department announcement, need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court, which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.

State said it would use the extended period to “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.”

The agency consultation process is not starting over.

The process is ongoing, and the State Department and other agencies are continuing to work in assessing the permit application.

The permit process will conclude “once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” according to the announcement.

A permit is needed for the pipeline because it would cross the U.S. border from Canada.

The announcement trigged a flood of comments, especially from the environmental community, which has been fighting the proposal through litigation, petitions and demonstrations. 

Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for the climate and energy program at Friends of the Earth, said, “This decision shows the power of the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline by the people of Nebraska and activists all across the country.”

He continued, “Whether President Obama makes a decision on the pipeline next month or next year, Keystone XL clearly fails the president’s climate test. This delay shows that TransCanada will not succeed in bullying their way to approval, bypassing established democratic procedures. Further analysis will only confirm how risky this pipeline is to the health of the American economy, environment, people, and our climate.”

CREDO, a national progressive group working to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, also responded.

After expressing disappointment that the administration hasn’t rejected the permit application for the pipeline, Elijah Zarlin, CREDO’s senior campaign manager, said, “Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project — which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL.”

And at 350.org, co-founder Bill McKibben also expressed disappointment that the administration continues to consider the issue instead of deny the permit: “It’s as if our leaders simply don’t understand that climate change is happening in real time — that it would require strong, fast action to do anything about it. While we’re at it, the State Department should also request that physics delay heat-trapping operations for a while, and that the El Nino scheduled for later this spring be pushed back to after the midterms. One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”