President Barack Obama intends to rule on the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline before the end of his term, the White House said.
TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, had wanted to delay the approval process until after his term.
The White House said on November 3 “there might be politics at play” in the decision by TransCanada.
Some analysts think the company is waiting in hopes that the next president would welcome the project.
TransCanada had complained for years about delays from the Obama administration and had aggressively urged that the project be approved as quickly as possible.
The Keystone XL would send more than 800,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil to Nebraska. From there, the oil would travel to refineries and ports along the US Gulf Coast.
The project has pitted Republicans and other supporters – who say it will create much needed jobs – against many Democrats and environmentalists, who warn the pipeline will add to carbon emissions and contribute to global warming.
President Barack Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the pipeline in February.
All the Democratic candidates for president – including front-runner Hillary Clinton – oppose the project. The Republican field supports the pipeline.
Outgoing Canadian PM Stephen Harper was a strong proponent of the pipeline, but his successor Justin Trudeau – while supportive – is less bullish on the scheme.
The Keystone XL pipeline project was first proposed more than six years ago, but has languished, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary.
The Keystone XL pipeline maker has asked the US government to put its review of the controversial project on hold.
TransCanada says the pause is necessary while it negotiates with Nebraska over the pipeline’s route through the state.
The move came as a surprise as TransCanada executives have pushed hard to get approval.
Environmental groups oppose the 1,179-mile pipeline, saying it will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
President Barack Obama is expected to reject the project, which has also been undermined by falling oil prices.
On November 2, the White House indicated that it would rule on the project before the end of Barack Obama’s term in office in January 2017.
However, a delay to the government review might leave a decision in the hands of President Barack Obama’s successor in the White House.
In February 2015, the newly Republican-led Congress voted to begin construction immediately, but Barack Obama vetoed the bill, saying it undermined the necessary review process.
“Our expectation at this point is that the president will make a decision before the end of his administration on the Keystone pipeline, but when exactly that will be, I don’t know at this point,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on November 2.
In a statement, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said: “We are asking [the] State [Department] to pause its review of Keystone XL based on the fact that we have applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state.”
The Keystone XL pipeline would run from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it could join an existing pipeline.
It could carry 830,000 barrels of oil each day, and provide access to international markets.
Many of North America’s oil refineries are based in the Gulf Coast, and industry groups on both sides of the border want to benefit.
However, environmentalists say the Keystone XL pipeline would boost the emission of greenhouse gases and local community groups are concerned about accidents and pollution.
Daryl Hannah was arrested in northeast Texas on Thursday, along with a 78-year-old landowner as the pair protested an oil pipeline designed to bring crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Daryl Hannah and landowner Eleanor Fairchild were standing in front of heavy equipment in an attempt to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Fairchild’s farm in Winnsboro, a town about 100 miles east of Dallas.
They were arrested for criminal trespassing and taken to the Wood County Jail, said Paul Bassis, Daryl Hannah’s manager.
“They’ve arrested Daryl Hannah and a rural Texas great-grandmother,” he added.
Daryl Hannah has long opposed TransCanada’s construction of the $7 billion pipeline, which is designed to transport heavy tar-sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas’ Gulf Coast refineries.
“It is unfortunate Ms. Hannah and other out-of-state activists have chosen to break the law by illegally trespassing on private property,” David Dodson, a spokesman for TransCanada, said in an email. He also said protesters were “putting their own safety and the safety of others at risk”.
Paul Bassis said he spoke to the actress on Thursday evening and that there was ‘a strong indication’ that both women would be kept overnight at the local jail.
“The streets of Winnsboro will be much safer tonight now that they’ve gotten that 78-year-old great grandmother off the streets,” Paul Bassis said.
Daryl Hannah – who has starred in dozens of movies, including Kill Bill, Thelma and Louise and Splash – also was arrested in August 2011 while protesting the pipeline in Washington. She was one of several hundred prominent scientists and activists arrested that month.
They argue the pipeline would be unsafe because it would be carrying heavy, acidic crude oil that could more easily corrode a metal pipe, which would lead to a spill. They also say refining the oil would further contaminate the air in a region that has long struggled with pollution.
TransCanada says its pipeline would be the safest ever built, and that the crude is no dirtier than oil currently arriving from Venezuela or parts of California.
The issue became politically charged when congressional Republicans gave President Barack Obama 60 days to decide whether TransCanada should be granted the necessary permit for the pipeline to cross an international border before snaking its way 1,700 miles south to the Texas coast.
Barack Obama, saying his administration did not have enough time to study the potential environmental impacts, denied the permit in January.
However, he encouraged TransCanada to reroute the northern portion of the pipeline to avoid an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska. He also promised to expedite permitting of a southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast to relieve a bottleneck at the Cushing refinery.
TransCanada began construction of that portion of the pipeline this summer after receiving the necessary permits. Some Texas landowners, joined by activists from outside the state, have tried through various protests to stop or slow down construction.