Here’s why the company behind Keystone just asked for a delay

November 3, 2015, 10:06 AM UTC
Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline To Run From Canada To Gulf Of Mexico
POLK, NE - OCTOBER 11: A sign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is posted to a tree on Shannon Graves' property on October 11, 2014 in Polk, Nebraska. Graves, a native Nebraskan, is staunchly against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would pass through her property. She believes the pipeline would negatively effect Nebraska's environment and is frustrated by the way TransCanada has treated Nebraskans. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Photograph by Andrew Burton — Getty Images

Faced with dimming prospects for approval, the Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline chose to plead with the U.S. government for a delay on its fate, signalling that prolonged uncertainty is preferable to rejection of the $8 billion project.

Monday’s appeal by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp (TRP) has been widely interpreted as an attempt to avert an impending “no” from President Barack Obama to the nearly 1,200-mile (2,000-km) cross-border pipeline. Keystone XL would carry heavy crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska and on to Gulf Coast refineries, and has become the symbolic heart of a struggle between environmentalists opposed to oil sands development and defenders of fossil fuels.

The U.S. State Department said it had received a letter from TransCanada asking for the delay but a spokesperson said the review would continue for now.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company would not speculate on what the decision may be or when it may come.

But the Obama administration has become more vocal and active on climate change issues as it closes in on its final year in office, and the president has repeatedly expressed doubts about the merits of the pipeline.

TransCanada’s request for a delay came amid a darkening political outlook for the project on both sides of the border.

In Nebraska, the company remains embroiled in time-consuming disputes with landowners over the proposed pipeline route. And in Canada, it lost a powerful advocate in October when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had openly allied with Republican leaders in his aggressive lobbying for Keystone, was defeated by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.