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.
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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.
And he wonder's why he is viewed as a weak leader,He can't even make a decision on a pipeline. If you don't want it then deny it. Grow a pair Mr. President and don't punt this past the mid terms. You have no balls and can't make the tough decisions. No wonder Putin laughs at you.
It is ironic – they had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it (actually I am sure they knew it was a long term disaster) but yet they want to analyze this to death…..and for no good reason. Its not like it will save the environment. In fact it will be worse. Because Canada will just ship the stuff to China (higher carbon footprint than pipeline) who has less environmentally friendly refineries than we do. Anyone who thinks this will stop the Canada from extracting this stuff and selling has long since lost any rational thinking capability.
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.
If you were honest, you would at least fact check before you post your silliness. I know, you only believe Hannity, but you have all day to check the facts. The Kochs have 1.1 million acres next to the tar sands making them the largest landowners in Canada. Maybe you should just restrict your comments to what the girls on Fox are wearing.
And still the comments pour in from liberal sheep who boast that oil production "under Obama" is higher than under any president... despite the fact that he's benefiting from Bush permits and private production, and overlooking the fact that permit grants have gone down dramatically under this administration.
In layman's terms, oil production is up DESPITE the meddling and wishes of Obama, certainly not because of it.
The greatest audacity ever demonstrated was when Obama himself boasted of his oil production during debates with Romney, as if none of the above were true.
and the lsm won't question him on bit about this.... wont' see it on the nightly news, or read about it in the papers. nothing more than the propaganda wing of the democrat party.
To b e honest, I kind of like Obama, certainly more than the doofuses the GOP tries to put for as alternatives, but this whole Keystone thing has become a joke. It's pretty clear he simply is not going to allow a decision to be made under his watch. And that is simply not leadership.
Maybe I miss posted. If you lose trillions of dollars of revenue by giving the wealthy unnecessary tax cuts, I thought that deficit would go on the national debt, and we, our children, and our grandchildren would end up paying for it?
I think DCJohnny nailed it in 4 words: ". . . Oil production is up. . . "
Leave it up to the Dems to refuse to buy oil from their friend Canada and continue to buy it from their enemies in the Middle East and therefore forcing Canada to sell their oil to America's other enemy, China. Wow! What a bunch of idiots.
As a Canadian who works in the oil sands of Alberta, I don't care one way or the other if this pipeline gets built. We will simply ship oil out the west coast or pipe the oil to refineries in eastern Canada. A better choice for us in the long run. Then what ever oil the U.S, needs to import can come from the middle east or Venezuela. Either way, not a real big impact for Canada. It is just TransCanada pushing the pipeline and a few misguided polticians. The greenhouse gas issue doesn't change. In fact we just keep building and expanding.
BWAHAHAHAAHA!!! And you all wonder why I run rampant all over Europe?!!! You're little weakling President can't even handle this little decision. You think I worry about HIM and his stupid little gestures? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Good thinking. We can just keep trucking the oil by rail.
Your post is very clear that you have no idea what you are talking about. West Virginia is True Blue. Democrat Governor, Democrat led state house and state senate.
You are so uninformed.
Obama doesn't have the guts to make a real decision.
The job numbers do not include all the products Canadians buy from USA for equipment, parts and supplies for the oil sands. Also, the job numbers do not include all the Canadians who work in the oil patch and holiday in the USA.
Obama shows his total incompetence more and more every day. EVERYTHING he does is based on Democrat politics and elections. The country and American people mean ZERO to him. To call him an empty suit is an insult to empty suits.
The only question is who is in control of the strings. Now that he doesn't have to run for office anymore, he could care less about jobs and the American people.
Wait a minute! Is Nebraska holding this thing up? Would that be part of the States Rights argument that Republicans are so fond of these days? I hate it when people use my own arguments against me.
And Rachel Wolf is an idiot, living a pipe dream that just because the project is delyaed simply means the oil is stored for a longer period of time. Not that it stays in the ground any longer.
Why does Obama hate our country so much?
Leadership skills and experience matter. This can not be a surprise.
Another perfect example of Obama caving to his cronies and big dollar contributors rather than doing anything that might create jobs or boost the economy that he works so hard to ruin. PLEASE, Republicans, Tea Partyers, Conservatives, and HONEST Democrats, put aside the politics and get these crazies out of power. Vote Republican for every Congressional and Senate race and lets start to try and mend our country.
It would serve the USA right if Canada goes and bypasses the US and just ships direct to china.
Great decision Mr. President. Don't be bothered by the shortsighted. Unfortunately, there are many.