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White House Calls Another Keystone Delay 'Unusual'

Obama speaking in 2012 at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

   

It would be “unusual” to again delay a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, given how long the process has taken thus far, the White House said Tuesday.  

One day after TransCanada Corp. asked the State Department to suspend a review of its application to build the $8 billion Keystone oil sands pipeline from Canada until at least mid-2016, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama still wants to make a decision about the project before he leaves office in January 2017. “Given how long it’s taken, it seems unusual to me to suggest that somehow it should be paused yet again,” Earnest told reporters, adding the State Department is still trying to fully understand just what TransCanada is requesting.  

“When things that are worthy of technical consideration get politicized, that rarely speeds up the technical consideration,” Earnest continued. “That … typically has the effect of slowing it down.”  

Barrasso Applauds Keystone Delay Request 

On Monday, the Calgary-based pipeline company announced it is seeking approval from Nebraska’s Public Service Commission for its route through the state, a process that would take between seven months and 12 months. Should the State Department resume its review once the Nebraska commission has completed its work, such timing could push a Keystone decision onto the desk of Obama’s successor.  

Critics of the president who are in favor of the massive pipeline project have claimed Obama has done much of the politicizing. But Earnest defended his boss, arguing Obama has and continues to instruct the State Department to weigh its recommendation on the project “on the merits.”  

“The president himself has talked about what will be factored into consideration is the impact of this project would have on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pollution,” Earnest said. “That will certainly be part of the consideration here.”  

But he did acknowledge the administration’s decision and State’s review have been delayed by political forces. “There’s no doubt that this debate has been heavily influenced by politics,” Earnest said.  

“The president is doing his best to try and shield the process that will consider the merits of the project from those politics,” he added. “And that’s tough to do given the amount of politics that are being played here.”  

Ed Felker contributed to this report. Related: Hillary Clinton Opposes Keystone Pipeline See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.