The company behind the Keystone XL pipeline on Monday asked the U.S. to put on hold the review of its proposal to build the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline connecting the tar sands of Canada with the Gulf of Mexico. The State Department was in the final stages of reviewing Calgary-based TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit to allow construction on the pipeline designed to carry 800,000 barrels a day.
The request comes as the Obama administration appeared likely to block construction of the Keystone pipeline—as soon as this week—as Obama looks to burnish his legacy on climate change. “[TransCanada] said such a suspension would be appropriate while it works with Nebraska authorities for approval of its preferred route through the state that is facing legal challenges in state courts,” the Associated Press reports. Plummeting global oil prices have also reduced interest, and urgency, in tapping Canada’s oil reserves, the Wall Street Journal notes.
The State Department doesn’t have to heed the request and can continue carrying out its review. “A delay would be almost certain to put off a final decision on the pipeline until Mr. Obama left office, making it likely that the pipeline would be a hotly debated topic in the 2016 presidential race,” the New York Times reports. “Environmental advocates and liberal activists, many of whom are convinced that the Obama administration will ultimately reject the pipeline, called TransCanada’s request a ploy to avoid having its proposal killed.”
“The project also has faced unexpected resistance in Alberta, home to Canada’s oil sands, with the election in May of a left-leaning government that has adopted a lukewarm approach, and it lost an ally when Canada’s longtime ruling party lost its mandate in October elections, prompting the ouster of Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau has signaled support for Keystone XL but isn’t expected to make it a priority issue in U.S.-Canadian relations.”