Despite Nebraska's OK, State Dept. Pushing Keystone Decision Past End of March
Even though Nebraska's governor has approved a new route of the Keystone XL pipeline through his state, the State Department signaled it won't make a decision until at least the second quarter of this year.
With his confirmation hearing set for Thursday, that gives plenty of time for environmentalist Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to be in place as the new head of the department.
"Construction of the pipeline would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits," Gov. Dave Heineman (R) wrote in a letter announcing his decision today to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, with the mitigation and commitments from Keystone would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska," he added.
At the State Department today, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicated there's no sort of rush job to approve the pipeline now that the one holdout governor has changed his mind.
"We did receive a letter from the governor of Nebraska approving the route through the state of Nebraska. We will obviously take that letter and the Nebraska environmental report into consideration as we continue our federal review process," Nuland said. "I think we said last year that we expected that this process was going to take us through the first quarter of 2013. So just to reiterate that we don't anticipate being able to conclude our own review before the end of the first quarter of this year."
"We were waiting for Nebraska to make its decision. Our -- our processes move in parallel. We've been doing our own work. But had Nebraska changed the route or done something else, that certainly would have been complicating. I think we obviously want to take the Nebraska environmental study, we want to compare it with the work that we've done. So -- but, you know, I think we are still where we said we were, which was that we don't anticipate completing before the end of the first quarter. OK?"
She acknowledged that a denial from Nebraska would had an immediate effect on the decision, but "given that the state has now given it a green light, we're operating within that more positive parameter."
Even though Kerry is an ardent proponent of the theory of climate change, environmental groups are still heaping pressure on him considering that he owns stock in two Canadian oil companies that have pushed for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said "the ball is now squarely in the president's court."
"Now that TransCanada has worked with the state of Nebraska to reroute the pipeline around the Nebraska Sandhills, the president is running out of excuses for delaying this job-creating, domestic energy-producing project," Thune said. "It is time for the president to decide between job creation and energy production or political expediency. I call on the president to immediately lend his support to this bipartisan project so that we can begin investing in America's energy future."