Nov 3, 2015 by

CREDIT: wikimedia commons

Canadian oil company TransCanada has asked the State Department to suspend the review process for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The company announced Monday that it had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to pause the permit application review process for the tar sands pipeline.

“We are asking State to pause its review of Keystone XL based on the fact that we have applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “I note that when the status of the Nebraska pipeline route was challenged last year, the State Department found it appropriate to suspend its review until that dispute was resolved. We feel under the current circumstances a similar suspension would be appropriate.”

In the letter, TransCanada notes that an ongoing review process in Nebraska is expected to take seven to 12 months, and that during that time, it would make sense for the State Department to pause its federal review.

“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 for Keystone XL,” the company writes in the letter. “This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline.”

TransCanada had faced multiple lawsuits in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route through the state and over who in the state had final authority to grant final approval on that route. In September, TransCanada backed off from legal conflicts with Nebraska landowners, who wanted to keep the pipeline off their land, and agreed to submit a review proposal to the state’s Public Service Commission.

Environmentalists didn’t welcome the oil company’s request to the State Department. Americans have awaited a decision on Keystone XL for six years, and it was expected that the president would make a decision on the pipeline by the end of his administration. But Obama has been waiting on the State Department to release its final report on the project before he makes his decision, so if the State Department does suspend the review process, it could end up pushing the project’s final approval onto another administration.

“Clearly TransCanada has lost and they recognize that. It’s one of the great victories for this movement in decades,” founder Bill McKibben said in a statement. “In defeat, TransCanada is asking for extra time from the referees, and clearly hoping they’ll get a new head official after the election. It’s time for the current umpire, President Obama, to reject this project once and for all, and go to Paris as the first world leader to stop a major project because of its effect on the climate.”

Keystone XL, which if approved would carry tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of the U.S., has long been the subject of protests, rallies, lawsuits, and civil disobedience from environmentalists, who want the carbon-intensive tar sands oil the pipeline would carry to stay in the ground. It’s also been the subject of Congressional hearings and multiple attempts by Congress to push the project through to construction — including one attempt that was ultimately vetoed by President Obama.

“After nearly seven years of trying to force the president’s hand to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada is now desperately trying to block President Obama from even making a decision at all,” CREDO Climate Campaigns Director Elijah Zarlin said in a statement. “This is President Obama’s decision, and he shouldn’t cave to a foreign oil company trying to twist his arm into punting it to future presidents.”

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