TransCanada Corp calls on US government to suspend Keystone XL pipeline application

Canada's largest pipeline operator, TransCanada Corp, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, yesterday asked the US government to suspend its permit application.

Commentators say further development in the project is expected only after the 2016 US elections.

TransCanada Corp asked the State Department in a letter, which reviewed cross-border pipelines, to suspend its application even as the company went through a state review process in Nebraska which it had earlier resisted.

The move comes even as the Obama administration is expected to scrap the project. Also low oil prices have been sapping business interest in Canada's oil reserves.

"In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the presidential permit application," the Calgary, Alberta, company said in the letter.

TransCanada's move comes with the State Department in the final stages of review, with a decision for rejection of the permit expected this week, Dow Jones Business News reported.

The State Department would now have to decide whether to accept the company's request or proceed with a final decision.

Meanwhile some commentators believe yesterday's appeal by the company had been widely interpreted as an attempt to avert an impending "no" from president Barack Obama to the nearly 1,200-mile cross-border pipeline.

Keystone XL plans to carry heavy crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska and on to Gulf Coast refineries, and had emerged as a symbol of a struggle between environmentalists opposed to oil sands development and defenders of fossil fuels.

According to TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper, the company would not speculate on what the decision might be or when it might come.

The Obama administration has ramped up the rhetoric on climate change as it begins its final year in office.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Keystone had on its hands time-consuming disputes with landowners over the proposed pipeline route.

The company also lost a powerful advocate as Canada's conservative prime-minister Stephen Harper, who had openly supported Republican leaders with his aggressive lobbying for Keystone, was defeated by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

TransCanada Corp has been seeking US approval for the $600-million Upland pipeline, which is designed to transport crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil field to the proposed Energy East pipeline across Canada and to other pipelines even as it as had been awaiting a final decision for its $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline project. (See: TransCanada seeks US nod for new $600 milllion pipeline as Keystone lingers).