We Won’t Get a Final Decision on Keystone XL Until After the Midterm Elections

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 18 2014 4:49 PM

We Won’t Get a Final Decision on Keystone XL Until After the Midterm Elections

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The Obama administration has been reviewing the Keystone project for more than five years, giving enivornmentalists plenty of time to get creative with their protests.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/GettyImages

The Obama administration is extending its five-year-long-and-counting review of the Keystone XL indefinitely, the State Department announced this afternoon, saying the delay will allow more time for government agencies to weigh in on the project and allow an ongoing court Nebraska case involving the proposed pipeline's route to play out.

While the White House isn't saying how long all that will take, it's a safe bet that the delay almost certainly means that the pipeline's fate will remain undecided until at least after November's mid-term elections. (Nebraska officials don't expect a final ruling on their case until late this year at the earliest, according to the Los Angeles Times.)

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In the meantime, that allows everyone to carry on with life as usual on the campaign trail. Republicans can keep blasting the president for keeping the project in limbo (Mitch McConnell: "Here's the single greatest shovel-ready project in America—one that could create thousands of jobs right away—but the president simply isn't interested."); vulnerable Democrats who have supported the project can continue to appeal to more conservative constituencies by hyping their break with the White House (Mary Landrieu: "Today's decision by the administration amounts to nothing short of an indefinite delay of the Keystone Pipeline."); and environmentalists can continue to use each additional hold-up as evidence that the project is ultimately doomed (League of Conservation Voters: The delay "makes us even more confident that the harmful Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will ultimately be rejected").

This isn't the first time that a delay in the process has pushed a decision to the safe side of Election Day for the administration. Back in November 2011, the White House announced that it planned to explore a new route for the pipeline, in effect pushing off a final decision on the controversial project past the 2012 election. Two years later and we're still waiting.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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