Erika Johnsen

So, yeah. We all suspected the White House was going to punt on this one, but now we've got the official excuse story as to why they're choosing to delay the approval of the Keystone pipeline.

The Obama administration said Thursday it is delaying approval of a massive oil pipeline until it can study new potential routes that avoid environmentally sensitive areas of the state of Nebraska, an action that likely puts off a decision until after the 2012 election. 

The announcement by the State Department means Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. will have to figure out a way to move the proposed Keystone XL pipeline around the Nebraska Sandhills region and Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to eight states. The State Department said it will require an environmental review of the new section, which is expected to take at least a year.

President Barack Obama said the 1,700-mile pipeline is likely to affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment.

"We should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood," Obama said in a statement.

The decision on whether to approve the $7 billion pipeline "should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people," Obama said.

Aha! So this is about taking the time (and money, and opportunity costs) to suss out potential environmental effects and to explore the possibilities for different routes the pipeline could perhaps take. It's for our own good. The bureaucrats know what they're doing. And how convenient that this process will take us just pass the November 2012 presidential election.

No. We all know what's really going on here - the president is facing criticism from both environmentalists, who are just generally against everything involving oil, and big labor, who are all about the many jobs this project would create. Ergo, in typical pusillanimous political style, the Obama administration is just going to leave it for later, and waste everybody's time in the process.

Addendum: The official statement of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), author of the House-passed legislation calling for a final decision on the project, sums the situation up very well:

With a sluggish economy and stubbornly high unemployment, more delays are simply unacceptable. The Keystone XL pipeline is a shovel-ready jobs stimulus that won’t cost taxpayers a dime. Construction of the pipeline will directly employ 20,000 Americans and create more than 100,000 spin-off jobs. Manufacturers and labor unions are begging the President to approve the pipeline so they can get blue-collar Americans back to work. Each day the President delays the project is another day an American worker remains unemployed.

This project has undergone more than three years of study since the application was submitted in September 2008, and about a year ago, Secretary Clinton said she was inclined to approve the pipeline. The President says we can't wait for jobs, but his decision to delay this project is jeopardizing the entire project and harming our energy and economic security in the process. Several analysts believe a delay of this magnitude could effectively kill the pipeline. If we don’t import Canada’s oil, China gladly will. The President’s window of opportunity is quickly closing, and by refusing to make a decision, he is all but painting it shut. Bipartisan legislation sailed through the House once this year already, and we won't hesitate to act again to do whatever we can to move this job-creating project forward.


Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.