State Department Rejects TransCanada’s Request To Suspend Keystone XL’s Review

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The State Department has turned down a request by Canadian oil company TransCanada to temporarily halt the review process for the Keystone XL pipeline, welcome news to environmental groups who are pushing for President Obama to reject the pipeline while he’s still in office.

“We’ve told TransCanada that the review process will continue,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “The secretary believes that it’s most appropriate to keep that process in place,” he continued.

The decision comes a day after White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the request from TransCanada “unusual.”

“Given how long it’s taken, it seems unusual to me to suggest that somehow it should be paused yet again,” Earnest told reporters Tuesday.

On Monday, TransCanada asked the State Department to halt the review process on the controversial tar sands pipeline, citing the fact that a separate review process in Nebraska over the pipeline’s proposed route through that state would take seven to 12 months.

“We are asking State to pause its review of Keystone XL based on the fact that we have applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “I note that when the status of the Nebraska pipeline route was challenged last year, the State Department found it appropriate to suspend its review until that dispute was resolved. We feel under the current circumstances a similar suspension would be appropriate.”

Environmental groups didn’t buy the company’s excuse, however. Keystone XL, which would carry tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of the U.S., has been tied up in delays and decisions for more than six years. It’s been expected that President Obama will make a decision before he leaves office, but he’s waiting on the State Department’s final review of the project before he does so. A delay could force the decision into the hands of a future — and potentially more Keystone-friendly — administration. For this reason, environmental groups welcomed the State Department’s rejection of the request.

“The State Department recognized TransCanada’s request for what is: a brazen political attempt to pause a process that long ago should have reached the inevitable conclusion that Keystone XL is a climate disaster and cannot be approved,” communications director Jamie Henn said in a statement. “Now that he’s called TransCanada for delay of game, it’s time for President Obama to blow the whistle and end this pipeline once and for all.”