WASHINGTON — Democrats sweating this year’s elections may be hoping that the Obama administration’s latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
An indefinite extension of the government’s review of the contentious oil pipeline, announced late Friday by the State Department, almost certainly pushes a final decision past the November elections, keeping the project in a politically expedient holding pattern. But it is doing little to quell posturing over the project, which has taken on a life of its own as climate change activists battle energy advocates from both parties.
Republicans jumped at the chance to paint Democrats as powerless to rein in their own party’s president. Keystone opponents were split, with some praising the delay and others chiding President Barack Obama for not vetoing the project outright.
“It reinforces how ineffective, powerless and without influence senators like Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, Mark Warner and Kay Hagan are,” said Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, rattling off vulnerable Democrats up for re-election.
The State Department’s announcement that a decision on Keystone XL won’t come any time soon offers a prime opportunity to bash Obama.
“I am frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project,” said Begich, D-Alaska.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some environmentalists were equally miffed, arguing that Obama should muster the courage to nix the project.
“While we’re at it, the State Department should also request that physics delay heat-trapping operations for a while, and that the El Niño scheduled for later this spring be pushed back to after the midterms,” said Bill McKibben of the group 350 Action in a statement dripping with sarcasm.