The State Department will “extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, likely postponing a final decision on the controversial project until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections,” Reuters reported on Friday afternoon. The organization credited the information to a 1:30 call with Congressional staff.
The decision of whether or not to approve the northern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline, connecting the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries and export facilities in Texas, will enter its sixth year in September.
State made the decision to give more time for 8 federal agencies to weigh in on the project. This would move the end of the review process, originally scheduled to end in May, to a date “likely” after the 2014 midterm elections, according to the Wall Street Journal. State Department officials cited a February district court decision that struck down a Nebraska law that aimed to put decisionmaking power over the pipeline in the hands of the governor.
Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that the law, which allowed pipeline companies to choose to submit their plans to either the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality or the more rigorous Public Service Commission, was unconstitutional.
Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb told ClimateProgress that the Nebraska Supreme Court will likely not issue a decision on the case until about January 2015. She also noted that South Dakota’s permit granted for the pipeline would expire on June 20, 2014 — meaning that TransCanada would have to reapply for a state permit after that date.
“The State Department is following Pres. Obama’s lead who has said all along he wants to follow the process,” Kleeb said in a statement. “The basic fact that Nebraska has no legal route is reason to delay any decision until our state can analyze a route using process that follows our state constitution.”
“Nebraska landowners will not give up their property rights with bad contract terms and unknown chemicals risking our water. This delay is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest.”
This post has been updated to reflect information from the call with State Department officials.