By Matthew Daly
The Obama administration said Thursday it is delaying a decision on a massive oil pipeline until it can study new potential routes that avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska, a move that likely puts off final action on the pipeline 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.
President Barack Obama said the 1,700-mile pipeline could 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.
Environmental activist Bill McKibben, who led protests against the pipeline and was arrested in a demonstration earlier this year, said the protests had an effect on the Obama administration.
“A done deal has come spectacularly undone!” he wrote.
TransCanada said in a statement it was disappointed in the delay but confident that the project ultimately will be approved.