WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has extended the review period for the Keystone XL pipeline to give agencies more time to assess the impact of a pending lawsuit in Nebraska as well as review a massive outpouring of public comment on the proposal.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and other proponents of the pipeline’s construction were outraged by the latest delay claiming it has everything to do with politics.
“The President is waiting out this decision through the 2014 election cycle to provide protection for his allies in Congress, while costing thousands of out-of-work Americans essential jobs,” Griffin said Friday.
News outlets began reporting Friday afternoon that unnamed State Department officials had announced a 90-day extension to the pipeline comment period – fueling a barrage of statements from pipeline proponents (disparaging the decision) and pipeline opponents (praising the delay.)
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded in a tweet that the comment period had not been extended rather that officials would be taking more time to review public comments and assess the legal challenge to the pipeline route in Nebraska.
In February, a Nebraska judge issued a permanent injunction preventing the governor from advancing the pipeline after declaring unconstitutional a 2012 state law granting the governor authority to approve oil pipeline routes. The state attorney general is appealing the ruling.
The entire Arkansas congressional delegation supports construction of the TransCanada pipeline that would carry crude oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. It has been under review for five years.
The delay will almost certainly push a final decision from President Obama on permitting the pipeline beyond this year’s construction season. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., raised that concern earlier this month in a letter signed by 10 other Senate Democrats to the White House seeking a swifter review process.
The State Department issued a final supplemental environmental statement on Jan. 31. About 2.5 million comments were received during a 90-day public comment period that followed.
It was not clear when Secretary of State John Kerry will issue a final recommendation, after which President Obama will decide if a permit is granted or not.
“President Obama should do the right thing for our economy and allow the Keystone pipeline to be built,” Griffin said.
A coalition of environmentalists issued a statement praising the delay.
“This is a huge victory for climate champions and communities from Alberta down to Nebraska and the Gulf. Every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground,” said Rachel Wolf, a spokeswoman for All Risk, No Reward Coalition.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement calling the delay “shameful.”
“For no reason other than the president’s refusal to stand up to the extreme left, good-paying jobs and North American energy remain out of reach,” he said. “This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it’s been blocked ffor more than 2,000 days.”