WASHINGTON - The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.
Eight federal agencies would be given "more time" for the submission of their views on the Keystone pipeline, a U.S. State Department statement said.
The pipeline, first tabled in 2008, is slated to cross U.S. borders bringing oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries in the U.S. state of Nebraska and then farther south to Texas.
It has been long delayed awaiting an environmental review from the State Department, and a final recommendation from Secretary of State John Kerry, a passionate advocate for the environment.
It has also been held up by a February ruling by a judge in Nebraska who said the proposed route of the 1,179-mile (1,900-kilometer) pipeline was unconstitutional.
The Keystone project has pitted environmental groups against the oil industry, which has argued that it will bring much-needed jobs to the United States and help fulfill the U.S. goal of energy self-sufficiency.
Friday's statement said the ongoing legal wrangle in Nebraska was partly responsible for the delay.
"Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court, which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state," it said.
The statement revealed the State Department had received an "unprecedented" number of comments from members of the public concerning the project during a consultation period that closed in early March.
"We will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period."
A final decision on a permit would be taken "once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents."
The project has caused strains in relations between Ottawa and Washington. The United States has to approve some 875 miles of the new route.
Boehner Calls Delays "Shameful"
A State Department review of the project released in January concluded the pipeline would have little impact on climate change or the environment.
But the final environmental impact assessment stopped short of making a recommendation on the project.
President Barack Obama has said previously the pipeline would not be approved if it was likely to increase carbon pollution.
His Republican opponents, staunch supporters of the project, have repeatedly attacked the White House for the delay on a final decision.
House speaker John Boehner described the latest delay as "shameful."
"This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it's been blocked for more than 2,000 days," Boehner said in a statement.
"There are no credible reasons to block this pipeline even one day more."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014