Obama administration set to deny Keystone XL permit

The Obama administration will not issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline before February 21, according to reports in major American and
Canadian news outlets. The delay is the latest setback for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil processed from the tar sands of Alberta all the way to Texas.

Amidst public outcry over the possible environmental ramifications of the pipeline, as well as support in favor of its potential benefits for the economy, this decision is another victory for its opponents. The Sand Hills of Nebraska in particular have been a rallying point for opponents of the pipeline, who are concerned about the devastation a major oil spill could wreak on its ecosystem and a vitally-important aquifer.

For the pipeline’s builders, changing the proposed route to avoid sensitive areas that lay along the line between Alberta and Houston can mean increasing the pipeline’s length, logistical complexity, and construction costs. The process of weighing that and the economic effects of the pipeline against safety and environmental concerns has led to fierce and ongoing debate.

The pipeline’s proponents have sought to pass a law to expedite the permit-granting process for the project, but the Obama administration has said it cannot accelerate the process, especially when further environmental reviews are needed. "There was an attempt to short-circuit the review process in a way that does not allow the kind of careful consideration of all the competing criteria here that needs to be done,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The Obama administration has said that it will allow TransCanada to reapply for a permit, but at this stage it does not look like they will allow the project to go ahead anytime soon until its full ramifications are better understood. “It's a fallacy to suggest that the president should sign into law something when there isn't even an alternate route identified in Nebraska,” said Carney.

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