The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.
“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.
“The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” the State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”
Which is to say, “the Permit process will conclude” whenever we damn well please.
Back in February, a judge in Nebraska ruled that the administrative channels through which the state had completed its own environmental impact report (which concluded that the pipeline would pose “minimal” risks to Nebraska’s environment, by the way) and subsequently approved the pipeline were void, due to a relatively recent law change that meant the pipeline’s final approving authority should have rested with the Nebraska Public Service Commission rather than the governor. The judge was careful to note that the decision had “nothing to do with the merits” of the pipeline, but was rather a state constitutional matter. The Obama administration is essentially using the issue to excuse punting the pipeline past yet another clutch election — but what in the world an internal dispute in Nebraska has to do with the State Department’s umpteenth review of whether the pipeline is of a net national benefit… has not yet been sufficiently explained to us.
Since Obama reportedly told a group of bipartisan governors he’d be making a decision within a few months in February, I’ve been leaning toward the theory that President Obama will wring every last possible Democratic donation dollar out of the wealthy, Manhattan-and-California-based, Tom Steyer-ish green aristocratic set before finally approving the pipeline shortly before the election — the better to provide a last-minute lift to vulnerable red-state Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — but it sounds like I spoke way too soon. Approving the pipeline would indeed infuriate the aforementioned radical eco-contingent; they may be few, but they are well-monied and their useful-idiot followers are obnoxiously energized. No need to risk that kind of concentrated backlash, and of course, abiding by their wishes and rejecting the pipeline could be directly harmful for those vulnerable Dems (since, you know, almost two-thirds of America approves of the project, no big deal or anything).
Nope — the most politically pusillanimous course of continued delay could very well mean the least net damage for the White House here, so why not just keep making up convenient excuses as they go along and telling Canada to go jump in a lake? I suppose that when Obama told those governors he’d be making a decision “one way or the other in a couple of months,” he was just casually, carelessly, dishonestly putting them off, too — just like the rest of us.