All eyes are on Lincoln, Nebraska as the U.S. Department of State has invoked a recent court ruling there as its latest reason to avoid making a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
As the State Department announced it would extend the amount of time it would give eight federal agencies to give feedback on the proposal—it is currently being assessed to see whether it is in the U.S.’s national interest—TransCanada Corp., the would-be builder, expressed “frustration and disappointment” at the delay. So did Canada’s government.
“Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state,” the State Department said in a statement on April 18. “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 delay stems from a February Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that found that Governor Dave Heineman, who had approved the route that Keystone XL would take through his state, did not have the authority to do so. He had enabled legislation that gave him the authority, and a judge said the law violated the Nebraska constitution.
The $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry up to 880,000 barrels of oil daily from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico coast in Texas, has faced fierce opposition from tribes, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers, among many others. A consortium known as the Cowboy and Indians Alliance has descended on Washington D.C. this week to protest the pipeline to coincide with Earth Day, which is on Tuesday April 22.
Initially, eight federal agencies that are reviewing the pipeline proposal had until May to finish their evaluation, but now the State Department has extended that, though the Associated Press reported it did not give an end date. This, according to Politico, could extend the decision-making process past the November midterm elections.
Politicians who support the project dubbed the move political cowardice, while TransCanada’s chairman lashed out at the administration’s delay.
"We are extremely disappointed and frustrated with yet another delay,” TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement on April 21. “Another delay is inexplicable.”