- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2015

Twenty-four hours after claiming authority to make the final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the Obama administration said little about the issue Thursday, even as it looks increasingly likely that the project will die at the hands of the president.

State Department officials were virtually mum on Keystone, and the company proposing the project, energy giant TransCanada, avoided a war of words with the administration.

On Wednesday, the administration rejected TransCanada’s request to pause its Keystone review process while legal issues regarding the pipeline’s route through Nebraska are worked out. The decision ensures that Mr. Obama will be the one to decide the future of Keystone.

The president reportedly is leaning toward rejecting the project, which would cross the U.S.-Canada border, connect with existing pipeline infrastructure and carry more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil each day to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department has offered little in the way of explanation for its decision other than to say that the review process has come too far to be stopped.

“I have nothing to update regarding that,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday.

TransCanada, meanwhile, appears hesitant to criticize the administration directly. Instead, the company has continued to promote the benefits of the pipeline.

TransCanada officials haven’t weighed in on speculation that they sought to delay State’s review process long enough so that the next U.S. president — perhaps one more favorable to oil and gas infrastructure projects — would be the one to make the call.

“Our focus remains building a modern energy infrastructure project that makes economic, environmental and geopolitical sense for North America. This one 1,179-mile pipeline amid a network of 2.5 million miles of pipeline in the U.S. has passed every test before it over the past seven-plus years,” TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said in a statement. “With ultimate respect, I will leave the speculation on strategy to others to weigh in on.”

Environmentalists have praised the administration’s decision to continue its Keystone review process. They also hinted Thursday that TransCanada’s oil development plans are on the ropes after the company announced it is abandoning construction of an oil-export port in Quebec, part of a broader infrastructure proposal in Canada.

“Today’s decision by TransCanada will make it even harder for the company to find support for its massive pipeline proposal,” said Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defense, a leading Canadian environmental activist group.

TransCanada officials say their decision will reduce the environmental impact, but they also stress that pipelines and oil export infrastructure in Canada will drive economic growth.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates our dedication to listening and delivering a vital infrastructure project that will provide significant economic benefits to all provinces along the pipeline’s route,” said Russ Girling, company president and CEO.

On Keystone, TransCanada this week asked the State Department to halt its review until the pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska is finalized.

Earlier this year, the company abandoned attempts to exercise eminent domain rights over private land in Nebraska, a plan that encountered numerous legal setbacks and threatened to derail the project entirely. Instead, TransCanada sought approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission, a tactic that would allow the company to bypass lawsuits from individual landowners who objected to their property being taken for the project.

The Nebraska approval process is expected to take up to a year.

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