Court Takes Keystone Heat Off Obama Until Elections Over

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 07:30 AM

By Elliot Jager

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A scheduling decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court has provided President Barack Obama with a political reprieve. He will not have to make a call on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the November midterm elections, The Washington Post reported.

The court announced that it would hear oral arguments in early September.
Some of Obama's liberal base has been pressuring the administration to block Keystone because they believe it will exacerbate global warming. Some Democrats such as Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, who are seeking re-election, are backing the project on the grounds that it would create jobs.

The case involves whether the legislature acted constitutionally in shunting aside the five-member Public Service Commission, which had the power to set the pipeline route, in favor of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the Journal Star reported.

Landowners had been against speeding up the approval process. They also opposed allowing the TransCanada company to negotiate rights-of-way using the power of eminent domain, the Post reported.

A county judge ruled the legislature's actions were unconstitutional.

It would take some months for a new route to be finalized should the Supreme Court uphold the lower court ruling, according to the Post.

An Obama administration official told the Post that waiting until after the election is not about politics. "It doesn't make sense to have the agencies give us their best opinion on whether or not the Keystone pipeline should go forward if the information on which they base it changes dramatically."

Supporters of the pipeline say that the administration can green light the project even before the Nebraska case is decided and that federal government bureaucracy has already delayed the permitting process. "It seems the president's only interest is placating his environmental base in an election year," Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said in a statement, the Post reported.

Jane Kleeb, of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska, said she thinks the administration will decide against the project. "If the president was going to approve this pipeline, he would have approved it a long time ago," she said, according to the Post.

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