Nebraska Court Ruling Gives Obama an Out on Keystone XL

WASHINGTON -- After an environmental review cleared the way for the Keystone XL pipeline, the Obama administration found itself in the hot seat as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for the president to finally make a decision on the long-stalled project.

Today, a state court in Nebraska gave Obama a timely out that could result in at least a yearlong delay.

Three Nebraska property owners filed suit to block the pipeline's path through their state, and a judge ruled that a 2012 law giving the governor power to approve the pipeline over the state’s Public Service Commission was unconstitutional. The state attorney general indicated that they will appeal the ruling.

“We have not yet reviewed today’s court ruling, but we recognize that Nebraska has to work through its process on this very important energy project for America. We believe, however, that the environmental concerns in Nebraska, and in every other state through which the pipeline will pass, have been addressed," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a key proponent of the project in Congress.

“Because the state of Nebraska made a thorough review of the alternative route, we would expect the Nebraska Public Service Commission to make the same decision as the governor in approving the new route and to do so in a timely manner," Hoeven added.

“Following the release two weeks ago of the State Department’s fifth and final favorable Environmental Impact Statement, the Keystone XL pipeline’s good environmental stewardship and safety are well established, and the president should approve it. The State Department should now come forward promptly with a determination of the national interest based on the merits and importance of this much-needed energy infrastructure project for the nation.”

Congress isn't the only entity getting impatient with Obama on Keystone. Before a meeting with the president today in Mexico, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with leaders of  TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline project.

Harper said he'd raise Keystone with Obama "in private as I’ve done every time I’ve met him over the past couple of years."

A couple of weeks ago, Harper said Obama had "punted" on the Keystone decision.

"It is my hope that the administration will in due course see its way to take the appropriate decision, but that's obviously a political process in the United States," the prime minister told a trade forum. "The good news is that on both sides of the aisle, in both political parties, in both houses, and throughout the American economy and public, there is widespread support for the project."

Bob Schulz, a University of Calgary business professor, told Bloomberg that the ruling gave both Obama and the State Department breathing room. “Why would they decide if they don’t have to decide?" Schulz said. "I think he’s going to push it back another year.”