The State Department's Inspector General has opened a "special review" of the department's environmental assessment of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline, Senator Bernie Sanders said, which could delay the final decision on the line into 2012 or later.
"The State Department inspector general has informed me that it is reviewing the department's handling of an environmental impact study related to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project," Sanders, a Vermont independent, said in a release.
The State Department has said it hopes to decide by the end of the year whether TransCanada Corp's $7 billion Keystone project to ship oil sands crude to the United States can go forward, but has opened the door to a possible delay citing the need for a thorough review.
Sanders, one of the Senate's most liberal members, Democratic Representative Steve Cohen and 12 other Congressional Democrats late last month asked President Barack Obama in a letter to delay a decision on the oil pipeline until the State Department inspector general investigated alleged conflicts of interest over the project.
"The chances of them making a decision before the end of the year are pretty much impossible at this point," a congressional aide familiar with the matter, told Reuters.
Howard Geisel, the State Department's inspector general, said in a memo sent to Sanders that the "primary objective of the review is to determine what extent the Department and all other parties involved complied with Federal laws and regulations relating to the Keystone XL pipeline permit process."
The review will be conducted at three or more State Department offices, Geisel said in the memo, which was seen by Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Alden Bentley)