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The Canadian company seeking to build the massive Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline through the U.S. reapplied for a permit on Friday, pushing the politically sensitive issue back onto President Obama’s plate six months before the election.
TransCanada announced it has asked for permits to build the pipeline into Nebraska, and will eventually submit a new route skirting environmentally sensitive lands in Nebraska — the sticking point that caused the Obama administration to reject its previous application.
In a statement, TransCanada President Russ Girling made it clear he was appealing to Mr. Obama’s own stated goals of boosting American energy supplies. He also said the thousands of pages of environmental reviews already completed for the earlier application should convince the president to speed this new permit along.
“The multibillion-dollar Keystone XL pipeline project will reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil and support job growth by putting thousands of Americans to work,” Mr. Girling said.
But the Obama administration, facing intense pressure from congressional Republicans and leading business groups to approve the plan, has already signaled it would likely delay a decision until next year.
The State Department last year tried to put off a decision about TransCanada’s first application until after the election, arguing it needed more time to study the issue. That move delighted the president’s environmental allies who fear a future catastrophe, but angered many of his labor union supporters, who say the pipeline will produce jobs.
Congress then passed a bill requiring the president to expedite his decision, and faced with the tighter deadline the State Department ruled against the application.
Now, Republicans said Mr. Obama has a do-over.
“Today there is just one person standing in the way of tens of thousands of new American jobs: President Obama,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “After nearly four years of review, delay and politics, he is out of excuses for blocking this job-creating energy project any longer. Every state along the proposed route supports the pipeline, and its builder has jumped through every bureaucratic hoop.”
Nebraska officials were split on the earlier pipeline route, but have reportedly come to an understanding over a new route to the east of the sensitive Ogalallah Aquifer.
The State Department, which has a role in the approval process because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border, said in a statement that it had received the application and would put it through “a rigorous, transparent and thorough review.”
The planned pipeline would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands into the U.S. for refining and shipment.
Mr. Obama earlier this year said he would try to speed some parts of a pipeline that runs from Oklahoma to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That move could help reduce a glut of oil awaiting refining in the center of the country, but would not bring new supplies onto the market, energy analysts said. Those analysts also said Mr. Obama’s move wouldn’t actually speed up that process, since that portion of the pipeline was scheduled to begin construction this summer already.