TransCanada, the company looking to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, has asked the White House to suspend its application process, potentially delaying the controversial project until after the 2016 presidential election. As The Wall Street Journal reports, TransCanada filed its request in a letter to the State Department on Monday, asking that the government suspend its permit application as the company undergoes a state review in Nebraska, though it is not yet clear whether the Obama administration will grant the request.
"In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the presidential permit application," the company said in its letter, adding that the Nebraska review of a proposed new route would take seven to 12 months. "This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline."
Controversial pipeline faced an uncertain future
The Journal, citing sources close to the matter, reports that the State Department has nearly completed its review, and was expected to reject the application as soon as this week. As Vox notes, the Obama administration has final say over the project because it crosses national borders.
The 1,179-mile pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of petroleum a day from Canada and North Dakota to the Gulf Coast, and is expected to cost more than $10 billion. The project has come under intense criticism from environmentalists, who were hoping that President Obama would finally reject it this month, ahead of a major climate change conference in Paris. Suspending the review would effectively defer final approval to the next president. All Republican presidential candidates have voiced support for Keystone XL, while all Democratic opponents are opposed.
On Monday, before TransCanada filed its request, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Obama expects to decide on Keystone XL before he leaves office in January 2017. "Our expectation at this point is that the president will make a decision before the end of his administration on the Keystone pipeline, but when exactly that will be, I don't know at this point," Earnest said.