Obama administration pushes back Keystone decision
April 18th, 2014
02:50 PM ET
5 months ago

Obama administration pushes back Keystone decision

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration announced Friday that it is extending the comment period on the State Department’s Keystone XL pipeline report – a move that could delay a final decision on the project indefinitely.

The State Department’s report found that the pipeline would not have a significant environmental impact.  It was due to be finalized after a 90-day comment period ended in early May.

The debate over TransCanada’s $5.3 billion proposed pipeline from northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast has long been a sore point between the Obama administration, environmentalists and lawmakers.  The pipeline would carry tar sands oil across six U.S. states.

The “core reason” for the halt has to do with the case before Nebraska’s Supreme Court that could, whenever it is resolved, confirm or change the pipeline route. If the project route changes, then so might the agencies’ opinions on the pipeline, according to a senior State Department official.

Environmentalists decry the project because they say the process of extracting and refining tar sands contributes more heavily to climate change than conventional oil production.

“This is a huge victory for climate champions and communities from Alberta down to Nebraska and the Gulf,” said Rachel Wolf, a spokesperson for All Risk, No Reward Coalition, a group opposing the pipeline.  “Every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground.”

The pipeline’s supporters, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say research since 2008, when the project was first proposed, has shown the pipeline wouldn't significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs,” McConnell said in a statement Friday.

McConnell added that he is disappointed the president hasn’t done more on the matter by way of executive action. 

“I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either,” McConnell said in the statement.

Pipeline supporter Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, also blasted the delay.

“Today, (President Obama) punted a tough decision in the name of political expediency,” Terry said in a statement sent to CNN.

“It’s shameful that as we begin spring construction season, that hundreds of my constituents will be denied an opportunity to go to work on a project that will help secure America’s energy future solely because the President wants to placate his political base in an election year.”

Obama, who in his State of the Union speech underscored climate change as a priority of his administration, has said the pipeline must be basically carbon-neutral, meaning it must have little to no effect on climate change.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in late February through mid-March found that 61% of Americans back the project, compared to 27% who oppose it.

Republicans such as McConnell argue the pipeline is critical to help shore up the economy. Labor unions are hoping the pipeline project can boost jobs.

And four politically-embattled Democrats - Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina – also want the pipeline.

“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee in a press statement Friday. “I plan to use my power as chair of the Senate Energy Committee to take decisive action to get this pipeline approved.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, isn't entirely happy (she wants a separate study on health impact), but overall she applauded the delay.

“Given the unprecedented number of comments from the public on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, and the legal uncertainties due to lawsuits in Nebraska, the State Department was entirely correct to delay a decision on the pipeline,” she wrote.

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.  


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • Energy
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Clay

    Sniffit – Your post is 100% incorrect. When pipelines are built, land is not taken. Easements are granted, the pipe is buried, and the landowner resumes normal use of his land. The landowner is responsible for calling One-Call, if he chooses to dig near the pipeline – but that's it. No inconvenience. I lived on a farm in Iowa that had a pipeline running right through it. Every week the pipeline company flew a plane low along the pipeline, inspecting for any leaks. And the fenceposts over the pipeline were blue/yellow – that's the only difference. Our farmland on top of the pipeline was just as productive as the land on either side of it, with zero inconvenience to us.

    April 18, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Clay

    The REAL reason Obama is putting off the decision???? If there's no pipeline – guess how the oil is moved? By railroad. (Anybody heard of railroad accidents with petroleum cars lately? There's been several in the past few years...Google it). But – with no Keystone XL, the railroads are the primary carrier of petroleum to the processing plants. Guess who happens to own BNSF, one of the primary railroads moving the petroleum? Warren Buffett – who happens to be buddies with Obama.

    April 18, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. tom l

    Tampa,
    If you were an honest critical thinker you would know that the Koch's have no position and have not lobbied on this at all. Also, they will lose money if this is built. Stop reading Mother Jones, watching MSNBC and the Huffington Post.

    April 18, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  4. 1776usa2016

    Keystone XL Pipeline:

    A dangerous high-pressure pipeline that would transport dilbit crude (the nastiest crude there is) through sensitive aquifers to be refined in Texas for export to China for Canadians.

    The U.S. would get ALL the risk and NONE of the reward.

    Only super-wealthy investors like the Koch Bros. would gain anything on this dangerous pipeline. Average Americans would get nothing out of this deal.

    NO THANKS !!

    .

    April 18, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Brad4

    Why? 1 good reason? Obama, you are a horrible leader.

    April 18, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. Ryan in Texas

    The throughput will support 5000-6000 permanent refinery jobs.

    April 18, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Buzz Killington

    If by securing America's energy security, you mean killing our environment so we can pump oil and sell it to other countries. Anyone that believes any of our prices will be impacted if we build this is in a dream world. We won't see any lower oil/gas prices and the jobs are going to be temporary at best.

    April 18, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. ConfucianScholar

    This is yet another job-killing decision by Obama.

    April 18, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Domestic crude oil production under Obama has gone UP well over 50% since he took office and reliance on foreign oil imports has gone DOWN by 45% or more. The U.S. actually exported more than it imported for the first time in history last year. The GOP/Teatrolls ignore all that because it's inconvenient to their false rhetoric. Conversely, the oil pipeline is for a Canadian company and Canadian oil, will not produce the number of jobs these idiots like to claim, will actually destroy jobs all throughout the trucking industry, etc. Of course, the GOP/Teatrolls love that prospect because they hate the Teamsters.

    As for the Nebraska moron who is ranting about it, CNN fails to tell you about the court rulings overturning Nebraska's attempts to play fast and loose with due process and the power of eminent domain just to get this pipeline by taking away peoples' lands and homes. Follow the money on that one. They've been trying to step all over their own citizens' property rights to get themselves some campaign donations next go-around.

    April 18, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Lynn Wilbur

    Delay the approval of keystone forever... would be great for the planet and it's future.

    April 18, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. Bob R., Maryland

    Way to go Mr. President! You are da man!. Indefinite delay works very well for me.

    April 18, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "You make this sound like the administration did everyone a favor and the GOP is the bad guy for being upset about it.

    LOL. Ridiculous. The only thing this article does is broadcast people, including Landrieu who is a DEM, criticizing and complaining about something Obama did. It provides no information as to WHY the administration did it or what they say is their justification for the extension. And yet, you're complaining that it's somehow biased? It does nothing but give voice and prominence to ONE side of the argument: yours. And yet you whine anyway?

    April 18, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  13. nc1965

    Arizona, Florida, W. Virginia and Texas are prime examples of what this country would be like if the Republicans held the House, Senate, and Presidency.

    Discrimination

    Civil injustices

    Poverty

    Environmental destruction

    Not to mention listening to Country music and Ted Nugent 24/7

    April 18, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Keystone Pipeline immigration reform are victims of the 2014 midterm elections. If they aren't approved next year, it won't happen until after the 2016 elections.

    April 18, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. cfd

    This guy just keeps getting worse as time goes on

    April 18, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. 2_indy1600

    Don't worry; China is buying land all over the country to offset US Treasury bonds. They'll be drilling themselves on their own land, and if it's only Solar Plants, we'll still pay for someone else's energy. The guy that sued over the Sagebrush incident in the 1970's Nevada just happened to WIN when he sued. Why does this type of stuff happen under Dim leadership? Repubs want war, and dems want corruption. INSOLVENCY will solve everything, right?

    April 18, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. allan

    Simple to understand WHY – the Senator from Louisiana is going to lose her seat if she doesn't stand up and win the fight for the pipeline. Obama will give in to her pressure and she can tell the voters in her state "See what I did, I got the pipeline!" Another Democrat Seat Saved!

    April 18, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Wes

    Tampa Tim

    Fair is Fair
    Tampa Tim

    As a taxpayer, I want this dead beat welfare abuser to get his cattle off my land, and pay his fines.
    ––
    As a taxpzyer, I don't want $100 million of my tax dollars going to pay for Detroit's unfunded pensions.
    -–
    As a tax payer, I don't want to pay for unnecessary republican wars, republican tax cuts for those who least need it, republican government shutdowns, republican credit downgrades, republican recessions, and tax breaks for big oil. I see you are still working on being cute and clever.
    ---------------------------------------–
    How do you pay for a tax cut? Are you saying that by giving a 'tax break for those who least need it' you are somehow going to pay for that? How? Will your taxes go up? If so, you are blaming the Republicans for the Democrats raising your taxes.

    April 18, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. Videriquamesse

    Isn't that just so cute, bright and precious; Sniffit can actually make up words? Where on earth did you learn that childish and immature skill, the kindergarten playground?

    April 18, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. yolanda

    @Sniffit, then why doesn't Obama grow some cojones and kill it? I would respect that. What I find lame is his unwillingness to make the tough decision and act on it.

    April 18, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  21. woodlander2

    This decision should be based on the facts instead of politics. Unfortunately this administration makes decision solely based on politics. That was apparent in Benghazi, IRS, rollout of Obama care, etc.

    April 18, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. john

    It is apparent the President is doing everything he can to reduce our position in the world.

    April 18, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. ED1

    Why would all the people out there would be surprised with this he is and will always be our no commander and chief.

    You wouldn't listen in 2008 or 20012 now we are stuck with this (can't print the words) no account President that continues to divide this once Great Country.

    April 18, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  24. Patrish

    How many oil disasters do we have to have before we get smart.? If I owned land I won't want a pipeline on top of it, under it, or anyway around. Of course accidents NEVER happen. Oil companies are greedy and Americans are not too wise. I have no doubt that it eventually be put in and in 8-10 years there will be disaster connected with it. I feel sorry for the environment, but NOT the people that support it.

    April 18, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Ruben

    I hope President Obama kills this pipe line project for good!

    April 18, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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