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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The Obama administration is delaying a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That's the pipeline designed to carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. It's at the center of a big money fight between environmentalists and industry. As NPR's Tamara Keith reports, many see this move as political.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The decision on whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline currently rests with the State Department. Today, in a call with congressional staff and other stakeholders, department officials said they were giving federal agencies more time to review the project. The stated reason: a court ruling in Nebraska earlier this year about the route the pipeline would take had introduced uncertainty. Just how long the process could be delayed is unclear, but the response was immediate.

CINDY SCHILD: It's sad, it's shocking and, you know, it's just putting this delay in perpetuity when we could be putting Americans to work.

KEITH: Cindy Schild is with the American Petroleum Institute which backs the projects.

SCHILD: Once again, we're looking at a sad day when we're seeing politics trumping good policy decision-making at the White House. You know, we're broaching six years nearly of review of one pipeline project.

KEITH: The White House referred questions about the delay to the State Department. Republicans in Congress were quick to call the delay political, pointing out this would likely push the decision beyond the midterm elections this fall.

The Keystone XL pipeline is a tough issue for Democrats and the Obama Administration. Environmentalists are firmly against it to the point where it's become a cause celeb. But some labor leaders support it, as do some Senate Democrats from energy states. But if the pipeline goes through, it would anger another key part of the Democratic base. Bill McKibben is an environmental activist.

BILL MCKIBBEN: We need more than delays. We need the president to act boldly and send a signal for the rest of the world that this is the kind of project that we just can't do going forward.

KEITH: But with this delay, the conclusion of this epic fight moves just that much further away. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

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