Canada Oil Sands Alberta 2012 shutterstock
An oil sands operation in Alberta, Canada. Oil producers say the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is critical for easing a bottleneck of oil supplies.

Three top Canadian officials criticized the Obama administration on Wednesday over its handling of the approval process for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In media interviews at an energy conference in New York City, the three ministers accused President Obama of playing politics with the $5.4 billion pipeline, which would move Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta down to the Gulf Coast of Texas, Bloomberg News reported. The U.S. State Department is authorized to approve the pipeline because it crosses international borders, but Obama is expected to make the final call.

TransCanada, the pipeline’s builder, first proposed the project in 2008. Six years later, the Obama administration says that further review is still needed to determine the full scope of the pipeline’s environmental and economic impacts. The Canadian officials claimed that Obama is deliberately delaying his decision to appease environmental groups and avoid political backlash.

“We feel entitled to say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t right, this isn’t fair,’” Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver said in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters yesterday.

The 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL has become a major sore spot between Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who sees the project as an economic boon for Canada. The pipeline would help to ease a transportation bottleneck in Alberta, where oil producers have limited options for moving their supplies out of the landlocked province. Developers say the lack of pipeline infrastructure is curbing their expansion into Canada’s oil sands region.

Greg Rickford, Canada’s natural resources minister, told Bloomberg that the U.S. delay on the Keystone XL “is an affront in no uncertain terms" to the Canadian government. “It’s inconsistent with the principles that have helped our relationship, at least economically, evolve, and in that sense it’s quite disruptive.”