TransCanada, the Calgary-based company behind the push to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to pause the State Department’s review of the project until state-level negotiations on the actual construction of the pipeline are resolved.

TransCanada is currently in the middle of both a legal and logistical battle regarding the future pipeline’s route through Nebraska. The company has found itself in a months-long dispute, and is now asking “out of respect for that process” to suspend consideration and a decision on the pipeline’s fate until negotiations over the route through Nebraska are settled.

(Note that TransCanada has not withdrawn its application; if granted, the suspension would constitute a pause on a final decision for 7 to 12 months while the Nebraska question is resolved.)

More from CTV:

It represented a major turn of events for an already-epic, years-long battle — since replicated in similar fights across the continent over other pipelines to export Canada’s land-locked oilsands bitumen.

“TransCanada believes that it would be appropriate at this time for the State Department to pause in its review of the Presidential Permit application for Keystone XL,” said the letter.

“This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline.”

It’s an about-face in the company’s message. Until recently, it would have been unimaginable for TransCanada or its government backers in Ottawa to be requesting a delay, given their repeated demands for immediate approval of a project that would carry nearly one-quarter of all Canadian oil exports.

This pause, if granted, will ease political tensions surrounding the debate over the pipeline. President Obama has said that he will make a decision on the pipeline before he leaves office in January of 2017—which provides incentive enough for the pipeline’s backers to push for an extension on the review until they have the chance to present it to a more sympathetic Republican administration.

Environmental activists are of course crying foul:

Some pipeline opponents contend that TransCanada hopes to delay the review process in hopes that a more sympathetic Republican administration will move into the White House in 2017.

Jane Kleeb, who’s with a Nebraska group that’s against the pipeline, told CBS News Trans Canada is trying to “run out the clock.”

Environmental activist Bill McKibben, co-founder of the group, said, “In defeat, TransCanada is asking for extra time from the referees, and clearly hoping they’ll get a new head official after the election. It’s time for the current umpire, President Obama, to reject this project once and for all.”


Regulatory review of the project dates back to 2008. (The WSJ has a comprehensive timeline here.)

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