Dvid Jackson / USA Today
The Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps pushing back a final decision on the disputed project until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet that officials are reviewing some 2.5 million public comments, and that agencies need to more time to assess the impact of a pending lawsuit in Nebraska over the pipeline route.
Republicans (and some Democrats) who support the pipeline denounced the delay -- placing the blame on President Obama -- while environmental groups hailed it as a sign that the project will not move forward.
In a statement, the department did not provide a specific date for the end of the review.
"The permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents," the statement said, not providing a specific deadline. "The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views."
In criticizing the delay, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: "Here's the single greatest shovel-ready project in America -- one that could create thousands of jobs right away -- but the President simply isn't interested."
He added: "Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job."
While the State Department is reviewing the proposal, Obama has said he will make the final decision on the pipeline.
Environmentalists, many of whom support the administration, opposed the Keystone pipeline, saying it would cause ecological damage along its route from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Rachel Wolf, a spokesperson for a group called the All Risk, No Reward Coalition, said that "every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground."
The latest postponement "confirms, yet again, that this project is not permit-able," she said. "This export pipeline fails the climate test, fails the jobs test, and doesn't even have a legal route."
Democratic lawmakers who support the proposed oil pipeline also criticized the latest delay.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election bid in November, said "today's decision by the Administration amounts to nothing short of an indefinite delay of the Keystone Pipeline." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., tweeted that "it's ridiculous" to have another delay after more than five years.
In November 2011, the administration announced that it was reconsidering the pipeline route which would delay the final decision beyond the 2012 elections.