TransCanada is asking the Obama administration to suspend its review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a strategy that could delay a decision on the controversial project until the next president is in office following the 2016 election.
The company wrote Secretary of State John Kerry late Monday, asking that the federal review of its application to build Keystone XL wait until after the Nebraska Public Services Commission decides on the pipeline’s route through that state. TransCanada asked for state approval of the route just weeks ago.
"In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada asks that the State Department pause in its review of the Presidential Permit application for Keystone XL," the company wrote Kerry. "This will allow a decision on the Permit to be made later based on certainty with regard to the route of the pipeline."
The State Department did not have an immediate comment on the request. The State Department is in charge of reviewing the proposed pipeline because it would cross the international border with Canada.
TransCanada’s request for a delay comes amid growing speculation that Obama will soon reject the pipeline, which would bring oil from the Canadian oil sands to refineries in Texas. The Canadian oil is carbon intensive and environmental groups have made opposition to Keystone their signature climate change fight.
The Nebraska Public Services Commission process will take at least a year. So the requested delay, if granted, could push a decision on approval of the pipeline to the next president, who might be friendlier to the project. Several Republican candidates for president have supported the Keystone pipeline but Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said they would reject the pipeline if elected.
President Barack Obama could decide at any time whether to approve Keystone XL or deny the company’s application. But the Obama administration has delayed making a decision on Keystone for the past seven years, often using ongoing reviews in the states as a reason not to act.