The U.S. State Department will announce yet another delay in the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department briefed congressional officials on its plans early Friday and is expected to issue a public announcement in the afternoon, said Larry Farnsworth, spokesman for Congressman Lee Terry.
“Yesterday, the president had the audacity to stand at the podium at the White House press office and lecture Republicans in Congress about the need to make tough decisions," Terry said in a news release. "But today, he punted a tough decision in the name of political expediency.”
According to sources familiar with the decision, State Department officials cite an ongoing Nebraska court case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s pipeline siting law. A 90-day comment period for federal officials on whether the 1,179-mile pipeline is in the national interest started after the U.S. State Department finalized an environmental impact study at the end of last month.
In February, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that Gov. Dave Heineman’s approval of the proposed route was done under an unconstitutional 2012 law (LB1161) that also gave the governor the ability to confer on TransCanada the ability to use eminent domain to take property for a public project.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning appealed the ruling, and the case has been taken up by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Those following the case don't expect a decision until 2015.
If Stacy's ruling is affirmed, it could mean approval of the pipeline route falls to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an elected five-person board.
The $5.4 billion northern portion of the pipeline would carry crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, south to Steele City and requires a presidential permit because it crosses the border between the United States and Canada.
The southern part of the pipeline was built at a cost of $2.6 billion and began shipping oil in January from Cushing, Okla., to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.