The White House declined to comment on the State Department’s announcement, which came on Friday afternoon, when many Americans were observing Good Friday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, accused the administration of “a stunning act of political cowardice” by waiting until most Americans would be too busy preparing for Easter or observing Passover to notice the delay.
Obama and environmental groups dispute the notion that the pipeline would create many permanent jobs or have a substantial economic impact, but Obama has refused to say whether he will nix it. The 1,179-mile pipeline would travel through Montana and South Dakota to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries in Texas.
This isn’t the first time that machinations in Nebraska have delayed a Keystone XL decision. The pipeline’s initial route had to be redrawn to address concerns that it would threaten the Nebraska Sandhills, a region of grass-covered dunes used as ranchland.
“We are disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision on Keystone XL,” said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The pipeline project has become a proxy for a larger battle between environmental activists and energy advocates over climate change and the future of American energy — much to the dismay of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., which has proposed the pipeline. The company’s CEO, Russ Girling, said the company was “extremely disappointed and frustrated” with the latest delay.
Environmentalists’ hopes that Obama would reject the pipeline were dealt a blow in January when the State Department, in a highly anticipated environmental report, said that building the pipeline would not significantly boost emissions because the oil was likely to find its way to market one way or another. The State Department concluded that transporting the oil by rail or truck would have an even worse environmental affect than building the pipeline.
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