Obama administration pushes back Keystone decision
April 18th, 2014
02:50 PM ET
8 years 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.

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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.  

Filed under: 2014 • Congress • Energy
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Oh no! Another hurdle for the Canadian pipeline to pump Canadian oil that might end up creating a few hundred jobs. Cue the Whackjob Chorus......

    April 18, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. bobo

    WHY??? Obama... You are the most indecisive person! Just do it! One way or the other.... just know this...... the oil Will go somewhere by another means.

    April 18, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Fair is Fair

    “Today, (President Obama) punted a tough decision in the name of political expediency,” Terry said in a statement sent to CNN."
    Par for the course for the "voting present" empty suit.

    April 18, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. skipca

    Put it off until after the midterms so it won't hurt any of the administration's candidates.

    April 18, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    GOP/Teatroll hypocrisy:

    White mid-western rancher abusing PUBLIC lands and refusing to pay lawful grazing fees that are waaaaaay under market compared to what ranchers pay to graze on private lands, not to mention his refusal to pay fines for failure to pay said fees: "OMG," the GOP/Teatrolls scream, "what a horrible "big gov't" overreach and a travesty that's ruining our freedumb and liburrtee!!!!"

    State and/or federal gov't giving a private corporation the power to take peoples' PRIVATE lands and homes in order to build an oil pipeline to serve its private business and profit-oriented self-interests: "OMG," the GOP/Teatrolls scream, "how is this not already allowed....it needs to be done immediately and without any scrutiny!!!!! What a travesty that's destroying that corporation's rights!!!!"

    Cognitive dissonance is their bread and butter.

    April 18, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    So now the right wingnuts will be upset that the government doesn't take property rights away from citizens, and put in a pipeline in spite of their objections. Flip flopping from Bundy to a keystone may cause wingnuts severe back injuries. Why are republicans so he'll bent on making the Koch another $100 billion?

    April 18, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "HILARIOUS watching Guns Over People teatards "

    Guys....TeaTROLLS or something else please. None of this crap referencing the r-word.

    April 18, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. Chris-E...al

    Yes anything that helps a hard working tax paying american or even a poor one is always bad to a dem me dat . truly a backward sick jinxd minded lot with a gene disorder . Vote the life haters 0ut be for its to late .

    April 18, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  9. Joel

    President O couldn't plan his way out of a paper bag.

    April 18, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    --despite it not having any major effect on environment it clearly does NOT produce any kind of long term employment resource nor does this reduce Oil prices. It is waste of this project. Infrastructure produces major employment–focus thereon.

    April 18, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Toomuch

    Why didn't CNN post the comments fro Democrats..

    With the extension, the administration effectively has turned down that request. One of the letter's signatories, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the decision amounts to an "indefinite delay" of the project.

    "This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable," she said. "By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever. There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity and North America's energy security at stake."

    "It's absolutely ridiculous that this well over five year long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.H., said in a statement.

    Keystone supporters in Congress were furious with the decision. Just days earlier, 11 Democratic senators had written to President Obama urging him to make a final decision by the end of May, complaining that the process "has been exhaustive in its time, breadth and scope."

    April 18, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Ol' Yeller

    Good for President Obama... I have no problem with him finally pushing back and playing some politics with these goons.
    In fact, it made me smile broadly when he rhetorically grabbed them by the scruff of their necks, rubbed there noses in the mess they have been slinging around the house and getting all over the new (ACA) carpet.
    He smacked their backsides with paper, told them what bad dogs they were for making all these messes and he tossed the little whining mutts out in the yard to think about what they have done.
    Oh, Yes He Did!
    Rubbed their little noses right in it.
    Bad puppy... Bad puppy....
    Outside with you until you can learn the rules!

    April 18, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. sofork

    Typical stupid move by the Liar-in-Chief. He doesn't care one bit about this country, its people or economy.

    April 18, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. Chris-E...al

    Anything to bring america down and the world 0bama is all for it ! Gas prices would drop 2morow . I know its mean oh dirty oil you dems must be from pluto you sure are f n goofy . You must sk being you .

    April 18, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  15. yolanda

    It is time for Obama to step up to the plate and make a decision. Either okay it or kill it, but doing nothing only adds credence to the argument that this has become totally political and he is kicking the can down the road until after mid-term elections.

    April 18, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Malory Archer

    What about property owners' rights? Don't they have a say in whether a ginormous tube gets built to transport toxic yuck through THEIR land? Why aren't those criminal cowards at that welfare queen ranch in Nevada running to their defense and putting their wives/girlfriends & children on the front lines to act as human shields to protect the rights of these property owners against the "tyranny" of the federal government? Where's that coward ted (poopy pants) neugent and his gun?

    April 18, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  17. John

    The U.S. was a "net exporter" of fuel in 2012 & 2013, for the first time in history......so just how does providing a conduit for Canadian fracked gas to the middle east make the U.S. more energy independent?

    April 18, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. 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.

    April 18, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Jack

    Nice job with biased spin, citing only one opposing GOP member when there's also angry Democrats. Also, saying the comment deadline has been extended is an obvious attempt at minimizing the further delay of a decision, one way or the other. No mention of the fact that this has dragged on for more than 5 years now, no mention of the obvious concern for midterm elections and again, no mention of the Democrats who are also upset with the delay. You make this sound like the administration did everyone a favor and the GOP is the bad guy for being upset about it. Typical one sided reporting. You're just as bad as FOX.

    April 18, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. Tampa Tim

    tom l
    Tampa Tim

    Tom l – I am not surprised that you take the side of a dead beat, law breaking, welfare abuser.


    There is so much irony in your statement it's just terrific.
    Based on your earlier posts, you seem a Bundy support clone. Still got your Jammie's on?

    April 18, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  21. Rolph Cramden

    lively and courteous is apparently not possible with this crowd.

    April 18, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Tampa Tim

    Malory – Great post. Made my day.

    April 18, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    @ Toomuch

    Citing Dems who are in real electoral trouble in red states/conservative areas is pretty lame in terms of trying to prove that there's some sort of bipartisan anger about this. Landrieu and Heitkamp are both cowards paying to the conservatives in their states and we tolerate for no other reason than their better idiots to have in those seats than the idiots the GOP has on offer.

    April 18, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. Thomas

    If we don't shift away from burning fossil fuels , we are all doomed .

    God gave us this planet to exploit for profit and eventually destroy.

    Sarah Palin / Rick Perry 2016
    Understanding and Interpreting !

    April 18, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  25. RomneyWho

    I vote a big fat NO! To this Boondoggle! 🙁

    April 18, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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