Keystone XL pipeline issues gush again

The Keystone XL is back. Not that it ever really went away. Since last year, Republicans have been pounding President Barack Obama for rejecting the controversial pipeline, which would stretch from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. And then in March, Obama drew fire from environmentalists for approving the southern part of the project.

The State Department announced in a statement Friday that the Canadian company behind the effort, TransCanada, had submitted a new permit application for a pipeline running from the Canadian border to an existing pipeline in Nebraska. (This new pipeline is a necessary segment of the overall Keystone XL.)

"The Department is committed to conducting a rigorous, transparent and thorough review," it said in the statement. "We will consider this new application on its merits ... this involves consideration of many factors, including energy security, health, environmental, cultural, economic, and foreign policy concerns."

The Obama administration had blocked the project amid environmental concerns in Nebraska, which led TransCanada to devise an alternate route. The state is expected to take six to nine months to review that new path.

Don't expect the administration to approve the pipeline before the election. The State Department noted in its statement that "previously when we announced review of alternate routes through Nebraska this past fall, our best estimate on when we would complete the national interest determination was the first quarter of 2013."

"We will conduct our review efficiently, using existing analysis as appropriate," it said.

Republicans pounced on the news, urging the president to cut off the State Department review. "Today there is just one person standing in the way of tens of thousands of new American jobs: President Obama," Republican House Speaker John Boehner charged in a statement. "After nearly four years of review, delay and politics, he is out of excuses for blocking this job-creating energy project any longer."

(How many jobs the $7 billion pipeline would actually create—and for how long—is hotly debated. The project would require hiring thousands of construction workers while it is being built. But a top TransCanada executive told CNN in an interview late last year that the number of permanent jobs would be "in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands.")

"At a moment when tensions are rising in the Middle East, millions of Americans are struggling to find work and millions more are struggling with the rising cost of gas, the Obama administration's opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline shows how deeply out of touch they are with the concerns of middle-class Americans," Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

"When it comes to delays over Keystone, anyone looking for a culprit should look no further than the Oval Office," McConnell charged.

But the project faced fresh criticism from environmentalists.

"Keystone XL would have tremendous environmental impacts—from the expansion of destructive tar sands extraction, the risk of tar sands spills across U.S. rivers and aquifers and increased refinery and greenhouse gas emissions," said Anthony Swift, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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