“This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it’s been blocked for more than 2,000 days,” Boehner said in a statement.
But environmental groups fighting the pipeline hailed the delay, arguing that it shows the State Department is taking the arguments against the pipeline seriously.
“This is definitely great news,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for the League of Conservation Voters. “We are very confident as they continue to examine the issues with the lack of legal route in Nebraska and the terrible climate impacts, at the end of the day the pipeline will be rejected.”
Keystone XL would carry oil from western Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border. The State Department vowed to move forward with other aspects of its review even while the situation in Nebraska remains in limbo.
“The agency consultation process is not starting over,” the State Department said in a statement.
State Department officials said other U.S. agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, won’t be notified of their new deadline for comment until the legal situation in Nebraska becomes clearer. Driving the delay is a concern that the legal wrangling could lead to a change in the pipeline’s route that would affect agencies’ assessments, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.
The White House has insisted that Secretary of State John Kerry is in charge of the process, which involves a determination about whether the pipeline is in America’s national interest. But Obama is widely expected to make the final call.
In a nod to environmentalists’ concerns, Obama has said the pipeline will be deemed not in the U.S. interest if it contributes significantly to increasing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. Environmentalists argue that the oil that’s pulled out of Canada’s tar sands is among the dirtiest on the planet.