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TransCanada Hits the 'Pause Button' on Keystone XL Application
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.