State: no 'expedited' process for new permit

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said that if TransCanada applies for a new permit to build the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the permit review process — which includes an environmental review as well as a ‘national interest determination’ process — will have to start all over again. (The current process has been going on since 2008).

While TransCanada said in a press release today that they expected an “expedited” review that could lead to an in-service pipeline by 2014, Jones denied that.

“If it comes with a new application it will trigger  a completely new process. We cannot say that anything would be expedited at this time. It would go through all the requirements,” she said.

Jones said some of the information put together by the State Dept could be used in the new review, but declined to speculate whether that could make the process shorter, or by how much.

Jones  the State Dept. was forced to deny the permit because the legislation passed by Congress setting a 60-day deadline for a decision did not leave enough time to consider an in-depth analysis of alternative routes in Nebraska that would avoid the Sandhills region. Without a full analysis, State could not conclude affirmatively that the project would be in the national interest.

She also said: “We today recommended to the president that the permit be denied and also that he determine that it was not in the national interest. The legislation did not give us enough time to do a responsible evaluation of the factors. We continue to believe this has to be done the right way.”

I asked how it was that the State Dept. only concluded on Nov. 10 that it needed to analyze alternative routes within Nebraska, when the issue had been raised for years. Jones said it was the result of concerns raised at public hearings held this year in Nebraska and elsewhere.

The bottom line is that  State could have reached a permit decision by early 2013. By starting all over again, it’s unclear when a permit decision may be completed. That may depend in large part on the result of the November presidential election.

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