UPDATE 5-U.S. further delays final decision on Keystone XL pipeline
(Adds official, industry comments)
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON, April 18 (Reuters) - The Obama administration further delayed its decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday, with no conclusion now likely until after the U.S. mid-term elections in November.
President Barack Obama has said he will have the final say on whether to allow the pipeline connecting Canada's oil sands region to Texas refiners, and several government agencies had been given until May to weigh in. This had raised expectations of a final decision by mid-year.
But the State Department said on Friday it was extending that agency comment period, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over what path the $5.4 billion TransCanada Corp project should take.
"That pipeline route is central to the environmental analysis for the project and if there are changes to the route it could have implications," a senior State Department official told reporters.
The legal process will likely continue past November and might stretch into next year, meaning more delays for the politically-charged issue that has been on the drawing board for more than five years.
By linking Canadian fields to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) pipeline would lift an energy patch where heavy oil is abundant but that is reached only by burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.
The oil industry agues projects like Keystone can reduce the United States' reliance on Middle East oil while partnering with one of the country's closest political allies, Canada. Continued...