WASHINGTON — We don't know when the U.S. State Department will make its final ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline, but we do know it won't be anytime soon.
"I can't render judgement on when the final decision could take place," a senior State Department official said on a conference call Friday after the department announced another delay in the State Department process that could bring with it the approval or rejection of Keystone. "We want this to move as expeditiously as possible, we recognize that this is an issue of great concern to the American public, to American business and we take that extremely seriously."
The State Department review — necessary because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border into the United States — is being held up by a state court ruling in Nebraska in favor of pipeline opponents, department officials said. That decision, which endangers the existing planned pipeline route, is under appeal and observers say final judgement won't come until 2015.
That timeline boots the Keystone decision until after the November elections, a move that enraged Republicans and Democratic Keystone proponents and led to accusations that the move was political. Opponents of Keystone hailed the delay as a sign their side was winning the Keystone fight, while supporters of the pipeline said it was an example of the administration punting a political hot potato.
Despite the fresh round of State Department chatter caused by the delay, both sides of the Keystone debate generally point the finger at President Obama when it comes to Keystone.
The State Department official rejected the notion that politics are behind the new delay, stating that the delay was caused by the the possibility that the Nebraska ruling could alter the pipeline route already under review.
"I would just underscore that there's no intent to delay the process," the official said. "The delay is to be able to ensure that the analyses that we do are based on the route that is subject to our review process."