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Obama Delays XL Pipeline Decision Until After Midterm Elections

By Newsmax Wires   |   Friday, 18 Apr 2014 02:32 PM

The Obama administration said Friday it's extending its review of the Keystone XL pipeline — a procedural punt that could put off a decision until after midterms — unleashing howls of protest from both Republicans and Democrats who want the project approved.

State Department officials cited ongoing litigation in Nebraska over the pipeline's route, and said more time was needed to allow for comment.

The indecision over the northern leg of TransCanada's pipeline, which would connect the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries and export facilities in Texas, has dragged on for nearly six years — and the debate has put President Barack Obama in a tough spot with supporters, some of whom are pushing for the the job-creating project, and environmentalists who are vehemently opposed.

"This delay is shameful," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

"With tens of thousands of American jobs on the line and our allies in Eastern Europe looking for energy leadership from America, it's clear there is little this administration isn't willing to sacrifice for politics. 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," he said.

Boehner also alluded to the crisis in Ukraine, saying "energy security sends signals across borders, and nations in the region hoping for greater American energy exports will no doubt take notice of this egregious decision."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, also blasted the delay, calling it "absolutely ridiculous," while Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana called the delay "irresponsible, unnecessary, and unacceptable," Fox News reported.

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"By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever," Landrieu said. "There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity, and North America's energy security at stake."

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a statement reported by Politico, said the delay only shows "it is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs."

"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."

Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, whom Politico described as one of the pipeline's biggest supporters in Congress, slammed Obama's "audacity to stand at the podium at the White House press office and lecture Republicans in Congress about the need to make tough decisions."

"But today, he punted a tough decision in the name of political expediency.”

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called the delay "a stunning act of political cowardice," Politico reported.

And North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven said it was clear the president "wants to get this past the midterms."

"I'm not convinced that's a good strategy. Because people are going to see it for the political decision that it is."

The decision could also put Obama at odds with Canadian politicians who also want to see an end to delays and indecision.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office was "disappointed that politics continue to delay a decision," his spokesman said.

Environmentalists were heartened.

Jane Kleep, director of Bold Nebraska, a progressive advocacy group, insisted the new delay in the project "is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest," Think Progress reported.

She said litigation before the Nebraska Supreme Court will likely not be settled until about January 2015 — and that South Dakota's permit granted for the pipeline expires this June 20, which means TransCanada would have to reapply for a state permit afterward.

The latest delay comes just a week after a group of 11 Senate Democrats — five of them looking to get re-elected this year — urged Obama to make up his mind by May 31.

They included Landrieu as well as Mark Begich of Alaska; Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Kay Hagan of North Carolina; and Mark Warner of Virginia, all of them up for re-election. All were backers of the Keystone project.

"This decision must not drag on into the summer," the letter urged. Heitkamp, of North Dakota; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; and Jon Tester and John Walsh, both of Montana, also signed the plea.

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Information from Reuters and The Associated Press were used in this report.

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