In an announcement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that it will provide more time for the eight federal agencies that have a legal responsibility to review the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. The amount of additional time is not specified, but one thing we can be sure of is that the State Department is in no hurry.
The stated reason for the delay is a Nebraska court ruling in February that tossed out that governor’s approval of the pipeline route without consulting the state’s Public Service Commission. At the time of the ruling it was expected that the delay could last as much as seven months while the Public Service Commission considered the pipeline project proposal. The state Supreme Court is also reviewing an appeal of the lower court ruling. A decision may not come until the end of the year.
With mid-term elections coming up, the Obama administration did not want to be forced to make a decision on Keystone XL until after the November elections. Friday’s State Department announcement officially gave the administration the breathing room it expected.
There is no political advantage for the President to approve the pipeline, except to help re-elect Democratic Senators from Louisiana and Alaska, both of whom strongly support the pipeline and are battling for their political lives in states that are heavily Republican. A delay is nearly as good as an approval in these cases.
The bulk of the advantages to the Democrats lie with rejecting the pipeline. It gives the party’s environmental wing a big win and sets up environmentalist support for the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.