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Don’t look to us for a timeline on Keystone XL, US tells Canada

The Canadian government is pleading for a final call early enough to allow building during the 2014 construction season.

February 4, 2014   by The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – The Canadian government is asking Barack Obama not to “rag the puck” on a Keystone XL decision. But to hear the US administration tell it, the president doesn’t have the puck on his stick, isn’t anywhere near it, and won’t commit to touching it soon.

The US is resisting pressure on multiple fronts to offer a date for a final decision on the pipeline – pressure that has grown with the regulatory process now entering a new phase.

It is facing demands from its Canadian counterparts, questions from US media and attacks from political opponents.

None of which appears to have changed the basic answer: that when it comes to a timeline, there is no answer. The State Department is legally in charge of the file for at least another 90 days, and there’s no indication of when it might hand things over to the president.

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Presidential spokesman Jay Carney refused to be pegged down on a process he said isn’t even controlled by the White House. He even warned against political interference – a 2012 attempt by Republicans to force a decision within 60 days actually backfired, forcing a new regulatory process and additional delay, Carney noted.

“This is a process that’s run out of the State Department because it’s a pipeline that crosses an international boundary,” he said. “The president’s view is we don’t interfere with that process. We let it play itself out.”

The White House response comes as the Canadian government seeks quick action following a report last week by the State Department that concludes that, under foreseeable market conditions, a new pipeline won’t single-handedly expand the Alberta oil sands.

Using the hockey metaphor of puck-ragging, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver urged the president not to stall for time. The Canadian government is pleading for a final call early enough to allow building during the 2014 construction season.

There will now be a 90-day national-interest determination study, during which various US federal departments can raise objections. Then, based on what Secretary of State John Kerry decides, a final call might have to be made by the president.

But there’s no indication of when Kerry might make his decision.

In fact, a spokesman for Kerry offered only the tiniest hint when asked whether the department might actually make a recommendation to Obama while he’s still president.

Asked whether the decision would occur before 2017, Kerry spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki replied: “Yes.”

©The Canadian Press


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