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Keystone Pipeline Decision Pushed Back Until 2014

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Reuters reports:

The decision may not be made until November, December or even early 2014, said a U.S. official, as President Barack Obama will not rush the process, which still has a number of stages to work through. One of those stages has not even begun yet and will run for months.

“The president has to be able to show that the administration looked under every stone to ensure it knew as much as it possibly could about the impact of Keystone,” said the official, who did not want to be named given the sensitive nature of the project.

Analysts agreed that a decision would not be made by this summer as the State Department had suggested when it issued an environmental review on the pipeline on March 1.

As a supporter of the Keystone Pipeline, this obviously seems silly. The decision could have been made years ago, before it became a big issue in Obama’s re-election campaign so he naturally pushed it back until after his election in order to not alienate voters who might disagree with his decision. There also seemed to be a consensus that the decision would be made this summer, and before that pundits were predicting early 2013 after the election..

Pushing the decision to 2014 might allow the State Department to do some additional analysis, but the professional environmentalists who oppose this will never be satisfied or convinced that building the pipeline is a good idea.

The State Department is nominally in charge of making a final decision on TransCanada Corp’s proposed project, which would help link Alberta’s oil sands with refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast, because the pipeline would cross the national border. But Obama is expected to weigh heavily on the decision.

Another delay in the project, which has been pending for more than four years, would likely anger Canada, whose Prime Minister Stephen Harper is visiting New York next week to push the project at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Other Canadian federal and provincial officials have visited Washington regularly to press the case for the pipeline.

It could also set back TransCanada which last month said delays by Washington would delay completion of the project to the second half of 2015 and push costs for the project above its estimate of $5.3 billion.

A State Department spokeswoman on Thursday said the environmental review has received more than 1 million public comments.

It has taken over four years to get a permit for an oil pipeline. What is the hold up now? It looks like it is the EPA, who recently weighed in on the pipeline:

Even before that the national interest decision process kicks off, revisions to the environmental assessment may be needed after the EPA last month took issue with several parts of the State Department’s review.

The EPA had concerns about the level of emissions from Canada’s oil sands, where crude production is carbon-intensive. It also took issue with the State Department’s conclusion that the pipeline would have no effect on climate because the oil sands would make it to market whether or not the pipeline was approved. The State Department said much of the oil could be moved by rail, an assumption the EPA questioned.

If the EPA and State Department do not come to an agreement, the decision could be sent to the White House, which could take even more time. A more likely scenario is that the two agencies will work out a solution, but they will most likely take their time to examine every detail to shield the decision from lawsuits.

We’ll keep you informed if anything changes.

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