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Monday, February 24, 2014

Ruling by Nebraska judge lets Obama remain indecisive on Keystone XL pipeline -- By Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times

Environmentalists are heartened by a judge's decision last week that struck down a law allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to run through Nebraska. The law, approved by Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, could have been used to force landowners to allow the pipeline on their property. The Nebraska attorney general is appealing the ruling, which is likely to further delay the project. (Associated Press)President Obama appears willing to put off a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline at least until the midterm elections have passed, and a Nebraska judge now has given him the ability to do that.

Analysts say a court ruling last week — invalidating the pipeline's route through Nebraska and essentially putting the entire project on hold for the foreseeable future — means an ultimate decision on Keystone could be delayed another year or longer. The pipeline has been under study for more than five years, the entirety of Mr. Obama's time in office.

Before last week's ruling, the president was expected to make his decision this spring or early summer.

At the federal level, the State Department has concluded that the $7 billion project, which would transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil each day from Alberta through the U.S. heartland en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, won't have a measurable impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but the department still must determine whether the pipeline is in the overall "national interest" before the president renders a final decision.

Because Keystone no longer has a legal route through the Cornhusker state, making that determination will be more difficult, said Brian Heslin, a lawyer with the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm Moore & Van Allen, which specializes in energy regulations and pipelines.

"Given that this pipeline is not going to circumvent Nebraska on the way down to the Gulf, there could be an argument that it's difficult to assess whether this is in the national interest because you don't have the full path of the pipeline through the various states," Mr. Heslin said. "If you were motivated to do so, you could make an argument, pending the approval decision and designated pathway [in Nebraska], the State Department is not in a position to determine if it's in the national interest."

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