The Obama administration said Friday that it is giving federal agencies more time to assess a proposed trans-national pipeline, likely keeping a decision about the controversial Keystone XL project from being made anytime soon.
Both the Associated Press and Reuters reported that the decision to further delay any announcement about the project is expected to keep the Keystone pipeline’s future uncertain until after November, when several United States government positions will go up for grabs at mid-term elections.
The news came on Friday courtesy of the US Department of State, which has jurisdiction over the decision because the 1,200-mile pipeline, if completed, will cross America’s international boundary with Canada.
If the project is approved, the pipeline is expected to transport crude tar sands from Canada down towards the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists and other activists have largely opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, however, while President Barack Obama has been criticized by opponents for not already approving a project that’s expected to create thousands of new jobs.
In the midst of a years-long debate, the State Dept. said that more time is required so that the agencies involved can sufficiently analyze the trove of submitted comments and evidence and make the best decision possible. So far, the project has been waiting on a permit from US officials for five years.
“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies 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. In addition, during this time we will 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, 2014.”
The court ruling cited by the State Dept. was made this past February in the District Court of Lancaster County, where Judge Stephanie Stacy said that the governor’s decision to let the $5.4 billion pipeline pass through Nebraska was "unconstitutional and void."
"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," the State Department said on Friday.
The latest news comes only weeks after a group of 11 democratic senators wrote the White House urging Pres. Obama to make a final decision by May 31. Now just six weeks away, that deadline is believed to be all but impossible to meet.
“It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said in a statement on Friday. “I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either. At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years. 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,” added McConnell. "More jobs left behind in the Obama economy.”