White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama has been “consistent” in wanting the Keystone XL review process to be carried out on its merits, days after the State Department announced another delay.
“The president has been consistent in always wanting this process to be conducted on the merits,” Carney told reporters Monday.
"His interest is not in ruling by fiat but in letting the process be properly concluded," he added.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced that they would extend the review period for the pipeline project. State Department officials, who must weigh the trans-border pipeline, cited ongoing litigation in Nebraska state courts over the project's route and said more time was needed to allow for comment.
The extended review could delay a final decision potentially until after November's midterms and led to criticism from Republicans who said it was a political decision and from red state Democrats who back the pipeline.
Carney on Monday sidestepped questions about Democratic criticism over the delay, saying only that the decision was made by the State Department and that Obama has been committed to allowing the review process to proceed.
“The Keystone process is run out of the State Department, in keeping with past practice by administration of both parties going back many decades or much time,” he said.
Carney, though, blamed actions by Congress for slowing the process in the past.
“The president wants the process to be conducted in a way that's consistent with past practice and consistent with the interests that have to be examined when you're talking about an international border being crossed by a pipeline,” said Carney.
“There have been a series of moments along the path here that — where politics has played a role in delaying the process, as you know — actions that Congress took, for example,” he continued. “And then there have been other instances where either local or state concerns slowed down the process, or, in this case, action by a state court had an impact on the process itself.”
The Keystone debate has split Obama’s supporters, with key labor unions arguing that it will create jobs, while environmental groups oppose the pipeline.