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U.S. Puts Oil Pipeline Plan In Limbo Until After 2012 Vote

A final decision on building a new oil pipeline to connect Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries near the Gulf of Mexico will not be made until after the 2012 presidential election, the State Department said Thursday.

TransCanada's proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline had come under pressure from environmentalists, as well as government officials in Nebraska. It would cost an estimated $7 billion to build.

For NPR's Newscast desk, Richard Harris filed this report:

The Keystone XL pipeline seemed like a done deal, until environmentalists decided to make it a rallying point and a test of President Obama's environmental credentials.

A Canadian company was poised to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta to Texas, and was just waiting on a few final approvals from the U.S. State Department. Soon after activists made this an issue, it also came under bipartisan attack in Nebraska, where the pipeline would cross some sensitive water supplies. Nebraskans want the pipeline to be rerouted. And the State Department has now agreed to study alternative routes.

Some labor unions support the pipeline because of the construction jobs it will create. And the administration has supported it on the grounds that it's better to buy oil from friendly Canada than to buy it from the Middle East.

President Obama released a statement supporting the postponement, citing a "need to seek additional information" about the proposed pipeline.

"The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people," the president said.

Over at It's All Politics, Frank James looks at how the delay might affect Obama's standing with voters swayed by environmental issues.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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