As I wrote here two days ago, there were emerging signs that the Obama administration was planning to punt the Keystone XL decision until after next year's election. Now comes a one-two-three punch to confirm what I wrote. The Associated Press and Reuters each ran articles today quoting an unnamed "U.S. official" -- who, given the context, could be State Department but I would wager is more likely White House.
This is how policy wars are often fought and decisions made inside U.S. presidential administrations -- by coordinated leaks that are intended for the widest possible distribution (in this case, AP and Reuters simultaneously) to telegraph a message to the opposing camp that the party line has changed and it's time to fall in line.
This message has come through loud and clear to the nation's main oil industry lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute. In a nervous press release issued today titled, "API: Denying or delaying Keystone XL is reckless policy," API complained:
Each delay has bred nothing but more delay which is standing in the way of safely moving vital energy for American consumers and the overall economy. .... If a decision is not made in 2011, the President will have failed to fulfill a promise of creating jobs and strengthening our energy security. We hope that he does not go back on his word.
... When the House passed legislation requiring a decision on Keystone XL by November 1 with an overwhelming bipartisan margin, the administration claimed it was "unnecessary" because the State Department was committed to making a decision on the project by year's end. We again call on the President to stick to his word.
Update 11/10/11: As I predicted, the State Department has fallen in line with the White House decision to punt the whole thing until post-election -- at which point TransCanada may have already pulled the plug, or the administration may decide to keep delaying it. State has just issued a press release confirming that it will conduct a new review of the pipeline route in Nebraska. The most important part is this:
Based on the Department’s experience with pipeline project reviews and the time typically required for environmental reviews of similar scope by other agencies, it is reasonable to expect that this process including a public comment period on a supplement to the final EIS consistent with NEPA could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013. After obtaining the additional information, the Department would determine, in consultation with the eight other agencies identified in the Executive Order, whether the proposed pipeline was in the national interest, considering all of the relevant issues together. Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy.
At Tar Sands Action, the environmental coalition opposing the pipeline, Bill McKibben has claimed a (qualified) victory. His new post today is appropriately titled, "Big news: We won. You won." Check it out. It's not often that progressives and environmentalists get to say this.