Some environmentalists are pumped about this announcement as an indication of President Obama’s occasional, political, unprioritized unwavering dedication to protecting the environment. But really, isn’t it just a way to send the Keystone Pipeline back into Obama’s favorite political purgatory so he doesn’t actually have to make a decision?

Didn’t we already do this? Yes, twice. In the latest State Department study of the Keystone Pipeline’s effects, released in March after EPA declared the department’s first study insufficient in 2010, State concluded that Keystone would not have a major impact on net carbon emissions:

The Obama administration today moved one step closer to approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, concluding in a draft environmental impact statement that the project would not accelerate global greenhouse gas emissions or significantly harm the natural habitats along its route.

The report, done by the State Department, suggests that the proposed 875-mile pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, has cleared a significant hurdle on its way to President Obama’s desk for final consideration…

Government analysts found that Keystone XL would each year produce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 620,000 passenger cars operating for a year. But they concluded that whether or not the pipeline is approved, those emissions would still likely occur because of fuels produced and obtained from other sources.

So, that would mean we’re moving forward on this sucker, right? That’s what Tim Carney thinks, but I don’t think so. The L.A. Times says this is a “strict” new guideline even though it’s one that’s already been met. The very same environmental groups applauding the president’s announcement that the Keystone Pipeline can only go forward if it meets the standard it seems to have already met denounced the State Department’s conclusions in that draft study as “absurd.” The EPA asked for a “more thorough” examination of the pipeline yet again. I’m thinking the environmental activists know more about whether the conclusions of the revised draft study constitute an approval of the Keystone Pipeline under Obama’s rubric or we’re in for another study in stalling. They want another study, not a pipeline, and they think they got it, although their logic escapes me:

“The President definitely changed the terms of the debate on Keystone—making clear that we need to evaluate its impact on the climate,” said Navin Nayak, a vice president at the League of Conservation Voters. “So while there’s still a decision to be made, it’s definitely a game changer.”

Leadership at CREDO, the progressive group with a list of tens of thousands of people who have promised to get arrested if Keystone is approved, called Obama’s remarks a “breakthrough.” Executive Director Becky Bond said that her group will continue to pressure Obama on Keystone through public action, but suggested that the bulk of the work was now done thanks to protesters like hers.

“No one expected President Obama to address the Keystone XL pipeline in his first major climate speech. But because of massive grassroots pressure, including a Pledge of Resistance signed by over 62,000 Americans pledging to risk arrest in peaceful civil disobedience, the president announced that he could not approve Keystone XL if it increases the carbon emissions that fuel climate change,” she said. “And the consensus from EPA and scientists could not be more clear — it does.”

Obama himself offers rather squishy standards in his Keystone passage today and intimates the process is far from over:

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” the president said in a Tuesday speech on climate change. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

I imagine there will be an announcement of another study. And, we will bicker about who’s conducting the study and how its conclusions will be calculated, and Obama will offer naught but vague entreaties that the study and result meet the “principles [he’s] laid out.” During all of this, we must “wait for the facts to come in,” at which point if we have already reached the end of Obama’s second term or he requires a big decision announcement for some other political reason, there will be an announcement of a decision. More likely, we’ll be in for another round of study on this, the most studied construction project in modern humankind.

When it comes to this particular issue, it makes no difference that “Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction” or that ignoring scientific studies conducted by his own State Department would qualify as a meeting of the “Flat Earth Society” if the person ignoring them weren’t Obama.

Follow along with the president’s plan in clip art form, here, and a critique from the left, here.

Heart-ache: