The State Department has hit the brakes on a congressional plan to revive the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, signaling Monday that it would not be willing to authorize the project under an "arbitrary deadline."
"Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision, its actions would not only compromise the process, it would prohibit the Department from acting consistently with National Environmental Policy Act requirements," the State Department said in a statement. "In the absence of properly completing the process, the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project."
The Keystone XL pipeline would have delivered tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the American Midwest.
But after months of mounting controversy over the project's environmental impact, and scrutiny of the State Department's original regulatory review, the project was indefinitely delayed in early November. Many believed it to have been scrapped entirely.
But in recent weeks, citing a dubious claim that the project would create 20,000 jobs, congressional Republicans have attempted to force the administration's hand on the pipeline by including a provision in a tax relief bill that would compel the White House to approve the project within 60 days.
A White House official stressed to HuffPost that although Obama earlier said he would make the final decision on Keystone XL, authority for permitting the project remains with the State Department. Monday's statement reflected the administration's view that the project would not be forced through on a short deadline.
Sam Stein contributed reporting.