TransCanada Hits the 'Pause Button' on Keystone XL Application

TransCanada, developer of the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline that would transport crude derived from oils sands in Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, asked the State Department to hold-off processing its application for the seven-year-old project.

2 minute read

November 4, 2015, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

"The company that hopes to build the Keystone XL pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast asked the Obama administration Monday to delay its review of the proposal — a striking turn that adds further uncertainty to a project that has generated bitter debate since it was proposed seven years ago," write William Yardley and Michael A. Memoli for the Los Angeles Times.

Spokesman Mark Cooper said TransCanada was not withdrawing its application. Instead, he said, “We are asking the State Department to suspend a decision.”

UPDATE: Request likely to be rebuffed; see response below from White House.

While their press release states that the purpose of the suspension was based on its application to the "Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state," speculation is that the real purpose is political, more specifically, the politics of the U.S. presidential election.

The move by TransCanada appeared to confirm speculation that the company hopes to push off a decision until the next administration because it fears Obama will reject the pipeline. Hours before TransCanada announced its request, the White House said it expected Obama to make a decision about the pipeline “before the end of his administration,” though it did not specify when.

That said, TransCanada Corp. is having difficulty in Nebraska due to objections by landowners who are fighting the company's use of eminent domain, though "a split decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court removes a key objection," as noted here in January.

If President Obama was to deny the application, as many suspect he will, TransCanada would have to start a new application process. Obama's last action on Keystone was to veto a bipartisan bill that "passed on a 270 to 152 vote in the House, twenty short of the 290 needed to override a presidential veto," according to a February post on Planetizen.

If a Republican wins the White House next November, the application would be reactivated, goes the theory.

UPDATE, Nov. 3, 4:36 PM EST:

"White House officials said Tuesday the president intends to decide the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline during his tenure, rather than suspend the federal review process at the request of the project’s sponsor," writes Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.

The southern portion of the pipeline, from Steele City to the Gulf Coast, has already been approved and is in operation. 

Monday, November 2, 2015 in Los Angeles Times

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Interstate 205 bridge over Columbia River with Mt. Hood in background.

The Unceremonious Death of a Freeway Expansion Project

The end of an Oregon freeway project didn't get much fanfare, but the victory is worth celebrating.

September 19, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Aerial view of coastal development and bright blue ocean in Kaua'i, Hawai'i.

Kaua’i County Uses Long-Range Models to Mandate Resiliency Standards

The county requires builders to assess potential flood risks using models that account for sea level rise projected as far out as 2100.

September 28 - Smart Cities Dive

Semi truck driving down freeway with twilight sky in background.

California Governor Vetoes Autonomous Truck Ban

Gov. Newsom called the new law unnecessary, citing existing efforts by state regulators to develop new rules around autonomous trucking.

September 28 - Wired

Roadside motel with turquoise room doors in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Low-Barrier Motel Shelter Is a Success—But Not an Easy One

Many guests at Motels4Now are on their second or third stays—but staff say that's doesn't equal failure, and the numbers bear that out.

September 28 - Shelterforce Magazine

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.