The U.S. State Department will on Friday extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, sources familiar with the plans told Reuters, probably postponing a final decision on the much-contested project until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline's path through the state, the Associated Press reports. The department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.
The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn't starting over.
President Barack Obama will make a final decision on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada's oil sands region to Texas refiners, but several government agencies are expected to weigh in by the end of May.
Republicans condemned the State Department move. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, "This delay is shameful. ... The House will continue to press the administration to move forward."
Said Sen. John Thune R-S.D., "It's disappointing that the president today chose to further pander to his extreme environmental donor base."
By linking Canadian fields to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon to an energy patch where oil sands are abundant but lead to more carbon pollution than many other forms of crude.
Keystone's foes say that burning fossil fuels to wrench oil sands crude from the ground will worsen climate change, and that the $5.4 billion pipeline, which could carry up to 830,000 barrels a day, would only spur more production.
Earlier this month 11 Senate Democrats, including five up for re-election, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to make a final decision on the pipeline by May 31. This delay nearly guarantees that won't happen.