TIME energy

Obama Punts On Keystone Pipeline

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network's conference in New York, April 11, 2014 Carolyn Kaster—AP

A decision to give executive agencies more time to review plans for the controversial pipeline could push a final decision to after the midterm elections

The Obama Administration is extending its review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has become an election-year minefield.

The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.

“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “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. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.

“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 State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”

The pipeline has become a focus of Republican critics of the Obama Administration’s regulatory process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the White House Friday after news of the decision broke.

“It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs,” he said in a statement. “I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either. At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years. Here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America – one that could create thousands of jobs right away – but the President simply isn’t interested. Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job. More jobs left behind in the Obama economy.”

-with reporting by Michael Crowley in Washington

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