The U.S. State Department is once again delaying a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, saying it needs more time to consider the impact of litigation in Nebraska that could impact the pipeline route.
 
The delay could postpone a decision beyond this November’s mid-term elections, though the department gave no indication of a new deadline. The U.S. government has been reviewing the proposed pipeline for more than six years.
 
In a release Friday, State Department said it had notified other federal agencies that they will have more time to feed into the decision whether TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP-T 50.75 0.37 0.73%) proposed pipeline would be in the U.S. national interest.
 
“Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state,” it said in a release. As well, the officials are still reviewing 2.5-million public comments received after it issued an environmental impact statement that concluded the pipeline did not pose undue local risks, nor would its construction drive expansion in the oil sands and significantly drive up greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently urged U.S. president Barack Obama to provide speedy approval of the line that would carry oil sands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
 
“We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL,” the Prime Minister’s director of communications Jason MacDonald said Friday. “This project will create tens of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, will enhance the energy security of North America, has strong public support, and the U.S. State Department has, on multiple occasions, acknowledged it will be environmentally sound.”
 
Environmentalists applauded the move, in the hopes it signals an eventual rejection.
 
“The tar sands are high cost, high risk and high carbon and this is another clear signal that their future is anything but certain,” said Hannah McKinnon, of Environmental Defence in Toronto. “The tar sands have a devastating impact on land, air, water, communities and our shared climate and it is critical that the president get it right and reject this pipeline.”
 
“More time for agencies to review the [State Department’s] flawed final environmental analysis will allow the facts to outweigh that analysis,” said Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress in Washington. “Delay provides opponents time to further build their grassroots opposition.”
 
Supporters of the pipeline decried the delay as “politics at its worst.”
 
“Thankfully, an overwhelming bipartisan effort from diverse voices across the country are already working to push for the President to stop punting on Keystone XL,” said Matt Dempsey, of Oil Sands Fact Check, an industry-supported lobby group in the U.S.
 
“Look for today’s announcement by the President to be a unifying rallying call to ensure Keystone XL is approved in a timely manner.”
 
TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said: “We are extremely disappointed and frustrated with yet another delay.
 
“American men and women will miss out on another construction season where they could have worked to build Keystone XL and provided for their families. We feel for them.
 
“We are also disappointed the United States will continue to rely on suspect and aggressive foreign leaders for the eight to nine million barrels of oil that is imported every day. A stable, secure supply of oil from Canada and from the U.S. makes better sense, and I am sure a majority of Americans agree.”
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