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Keystone XL Builder Asks US to Suspend Application Review

FILE - A depot used to store pipes for TransCanada Corp.'s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, Nov. 14, 2014.

The Canadian company behind a proposed pipeline that will carry oil from Canada to the United States has asked the U.S. State Department to suspend its review of the controversial project.

TransCanada announced Monday that it had sent a letter to U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry to halt the review of Keystone XL due to an ongoing regulatory process in the midwestern state of Nebraska, the end point of the 1,900 kilometer pipeline. The company says it could take as long as a year before Nebraska authorities finish their review of the pipeline's route.

The $8-billion proposed pipeline has been under State Department review since TransCanada applied for permission in 2008. If Kerry agrees to TransCanada's request, it could delay a final decision until after President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.

Keystone XL would transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil from the tar sands of Alberta across Montana and South Dakota to southern Nebraska, and from there connect to existing pipelines to carry the oil to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project has put Obama in the political crosshairs between environmentalists who claim the project will worsen the impact of climate change and supporters who say it will bring needed jobs and boost the nation's energy independence.

A cross section of environmental activists issued a flood of statements accusing TransCanada of biding its time until after the 2016 presidential elections, in hopes a more supportive administration succeeds Obama in the White House.

"In defeat, TransCanada is asking for extra time from the referees, and clearly hoping they’ll get a new head official after the election," said Bill McKibben, founder of the online group "It’s time for the current umpire, President Obama, to reject this project once and for all."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that the president intends to make a final decision on Keystone XL before he leaves office.