President Barack Obama plans to decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline before he leaves office – despite a plea from the company seeking to build the pipeline for a delay.
Obama has put off making a decision on the controversial pipeline for the past seven years, but there is a growing expectation he will reject the permit.
TransCanada, the company applying to build the pipeline, sent the State Department a letter this week asking for a pause in the Obama administration’s Keystone review, potentially until a new president is in office.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the State Department is looking over TransCanada’s request to put the review on hold until the pipeline’s route through Nebraska is settled. But Earnest added that, given how long the review has already taken, “it seems unusual to me to suggest that somehow it should be paused yet again.”
Earnest said that Obama plans to make a decision by the end of his presidency, even as the administration evaluates the company’s request for a delay.
The U.S. government estimates the Canadian oil results in 17 percent more planet-warming carbon emissions than other sources of oil.
The State Department, which is handling the application because the pipeline would cross the international border with Canada, said it is continuing the review despite TransCanada’s request.
“We’ve received the letter, we’re looking at it and we’re going to get back to them. But while that takes place we’re not going to pause,” said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau.
Trudeau added that Secretary of State John Kerry “has made clear he wants this done as swiftly as possible.”
Obama is under pressure from environmental groups to reject the pipeline, which would run 1,179 miles from Alberta to refineries in Texas. The government estimates the Canadian oil results in 17 percent more planet-warming carbon emissions than other sources of oil.
The Democratic National Committee is characterizing TransCanada’s request to pause the review as an effort to torpedo Obama’s agenda to fight climate change.
A DNC email called it an “attempt to stall the process until after President Obama leaves office – in the hope that the next president will be a Republican who will allow Keystone XL to move forward as planned.”
Several Republican candidates running for president in next year’s election have expressed support for the pipeline. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders oppose the project.
We have tried for seven years to stay out of the political machinations of what this president may or may not do or what a future administration may or may not do.
TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper
TransCanada wants the Obama administration to delay the review until the Nebraska Public Services Commission rules on the pipeline’s route through that state. The company asked for the Nebraska approval a month ago and said it wants certainty regarding the path of the pipeline.
“We have tried for seven years to stay out of the political machinations of what this president may or may not do or what a future administration may or may not do,” said TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper. “We are asking for the decision only to be suspended until after the Nebraska (route approval) process, which is a seven- to 12-month process.”
Cooper noted that the Obama administration put review of the pipeline application temporarily on hold last year while issues were being sorted out in the Nebraska Supreme Court.
“With the utmost respect to the administration and the State Department, we do believe there is precedent for pressing pause,” Cooper said.