Latest Keystone delay isn’t political, White House spokesman says

The decision to give eight federal agencies more time to prepare comments about the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project’s cross-border permit was not political, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

“My response to any questions or statements about this is that it is a process run by the [US Department of State], as has been the case in previous administrations of both parties,” he said during the White House’s Apr. 21 daily press briefing.

Carney’s remarks came 3 days after DOS announced that the federal departments and agencies that US President Barack Obama had asked to comment on the project’s latest final environmental impact statement on Jan. 31 would receive additional time. It did not set a new deadline, but emphasized that the agency consultation process would not start over (OGJ Online, Apr. 19, 2014).

“There was a decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court—not here in Washington, but by the Nebraska Supreme Court—that affects potentially the pipeline route,” Carney continued. He said DOS, which is running the process to review the final supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed crude oil pipeline project from Alberta’s oil sands to US Midcontinent and Gulf Coast refineries, acted on what it believes was the Nebraska court decision’s impact on the process itself.

Lancaster County, Neb., District Judge Stephanie F. Stacy ruled on Feb. 19 that legislation authorizing Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to approve a route for Keystone XL was unconstitutional under state law. Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning (R) immediately appealed the decision to the state’s supreme court in Lincoln, where it awaits judicial review (OGJ Online, Feb. 20, 2014).

The project’s supporters in Congress strongly criticized DOS’s action. “President Obama’s Keystone XL strategy is clearly defeat through delay,” US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Member John Hoeven (R-ND) said on Apr. 18.

“He claims adherence to process, but whenever he runs out of process, he finds more process,” Hoeven said, adding, “If he were clear and transparent with the American people, he wouldn’t be issuing the announcement of yet another delay on the afternoon on Good Friday hoping to minimize the news coverage.”

Carney said Obama has been consistent in his wanting the process at DOS to run its course. “We have seen attempts to inject politics into this—actions by Congress, for example, that have actually served to delay the normal process that [DOS] runs,” the White House press secretary said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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