President Obama may be trying to avoid the political fallout associated with the Keystone XL by delaying a final decision until after the November 4 midterm elections.
On Friday April 18th, the State Department extended the review period for the pipeline.
If the President rejects the pipeline, this could help the Republicans to gain ground in the forthcoming congressional elections, if he he moves forward with the pipeline this could undermine the chances of some Democrats.
The official explanation for the delay is that the State Department needs more time to review 2.5 million public comments on the project. They also claim they want to assess the impact of a pending lawsuit in Nebraska that could change the route of the pipeline. A decision is not expected in that state until 2015.
The news was perceived as good by some and bad by others. Supporters of the pipeline, like those in the Republican party denounced the delay while detractors applauded it. Although many of those who are against the pipeline wish that the President would just kill the project outright.
Republicans have vowed to make their support for the Keystone a major issue in the midterm elections. While environmentalist and some Democrats have indicated they will do the same but on the opposite side.
While many adamantly oppose the President’s decision to kick the can down the road yet again, it may be the most politically expedient way to proceed. Obama’s party already faces an uphill battle in the forthcoming elections.
Environmental and climate issues are sure to suffer if the Democrats lose control of the Senate in 2014. These same issues would surely benefit if the Democrats can retake control of the House.
This is a redux of the 2012 Presidential elections. While environmentalists wanted Obama to take a bold stand against the pipeline two years ago, avoiding the decision may have helped him to secure the presidency for another four years.
If, as many suggest, the facts indicate that the Keystone XL is not in the national interest, the delay may be the most astute political strategy. Delaying the decision may give the American people an opportunity to catch up to the President. This may give Obama the support he needs to cancel the project while minimizing the political fallout.
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