The Obama administration is delaying its decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and is not expected to make any choice until after the midterm elections in November.
The State Department notified federal agencies Friday that it will allow more time for comments on the proposed route for the pipeline. Officials pointed to the ongoing litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court and uncertainty with the pipe groundwork as reasons for the delay.
The 90-day comment period was supposed to end on May 7, but the department said it must process the “unprecedented” number of comments, clocking in at approximately 2.5 million.
“The agency consultation process is not starting over,” the State Department said in a statement. “The permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents.”
The extension will likely delay a decision until after the November elections this year. Movement on the pipeline was stalled after a Nebraska judge struck down a state law that gave the governor power to grant eminent domain authority to the company that owns the pipeline. The state is appealing the decision.
Anti-Keystone XL advocates in Nebraska are hailing the Obama administration's decision as a small victory. “The State Department is following President Obama’s lead who has said all along he wants to follow the process. The basic fact that Nebraska has no legal route is reason to delay any decision until our state can analyze a route using a process that follows our state constitution,” Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, said in a statement.
Republicans quickly condemned the announcement and blamed the president for dragging his feet on a final approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“This delay is shameful,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Friday. “There are no credible reasons to block this pipeline even one day more, and the House will continue to press the administration to move forward so we can put Americans back to work and strengthen our energy security."
Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry, a Republican, chided President Obama for punting on a tough decision just after he gave the GOP a “lecture” during a press conference the day before.
"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," Terry said in a statement.