- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

President Obama won’t order the State Department to reach a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline because he wants to “shield” the issue from politics, the White House said Tuesday.

“He doesn’t want this process to be inappropriately influenced by political posturing on either side,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “We believe that the decision should be made on the time frame of the experts who are evaluating this project.”

TransCanada, the company proposing to build the Keystone XL pipeline, asked the State Department on Monday to halt indefinitely its review of the massive project. The move raises the possibility that the final word on the long-delayed project will come from Mr. Obama’s successor.

Democratic candidates, including front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, oppose the project, but Republican candidates support it.

Mr. Earnest said Mr. Obama still wants the decision to be made during his presidency.

The State Department isn’t required to grant TransCanada’s request for a pause in the review, which is mandated as part of the application process because the $8 billion pipeline crosses an international border.

Supporters of the project have accused the administration of slow-walking a decision to avoid angering liberal environmentalists in the president’s political base.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said Tuesday that TransCanada was understandably frustrated with the administration’s delays.

“It’s been seven years. It’s an example of this administration [being] devoid of critical thinking or solutions,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Although the government’s review of the Keystone project began in September 2008, Mr. Earnest said, the White House doesn’t want the State Department to “feel rushed” on a final decision.

Mr. Earnest acknowledged that the lengthy review and related legal battles have been highly politicized. But he said Mr. Obama is still committed to trying to make sure any eventual decision by the State Department is based on the merits of the project.

“There’s probably no infrastructure project in the history of the United States that has been politicized as much as this one,” Mr. Earnest said. “There’s no doubt that this debate has been heavily influenced by politics.”

The Democratic National Committee seemed to take some credit for the latest delay, telling supporters in an email that the party “backed President Obama when he vetoed Keystone XL. We made our voices heard that we would stand up to protect our planet for future generations.”

Mr. Obama vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have allowed the pipeline project to be built.

Another group opposed to the pipeline, Bold Nebraska, told supporters Tuesday to send emails to the president urging him to reject the project outright.

“Keystone XL is a major threat to our land, water and climate via any route, and President Obama has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline today,” the group said.

The 1,179-mile-long pipeline project has become a major skirmish in the debate over climate change. Critics say transporting the oil tapped from the Alberta oil sands requires too much energy and will increase greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Obama has said one of the factors in the administration’s decision will be whether the project is a net contributor of carbon pollution, and he has made comments dismissive of the number of jobs the pipeline would create.

Supporters of the pipeline say it would create tens of thousands of construction jobs and contribute to U.S. energy independence.

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