Before Congress even passed its two-month stopgap payroll tax/UI legislation, the State Department had a warning. The bill included a mandate that the Administration give an up-or-down approval or rejection on a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days.  The State Department said flatly that this would force them to reject the permit, because it would not give them enough time to complete their environmental review. Indeed, TransCanada and the state of Nebraska had explored the possibility of a new route for the pipeline, and that review would take up to six months.  So Congress was asking the State Department to approve a pipeline without a defined route.

So today, the State Department will follow through on that promise, according to various reports.

The controversial Keystone Pipeline will reportedly be denied by President Obama, according to Fox News.

The State Department is expected to vote against the pipeline this afternoon. Transcanada will however be allowed to reapply with an alternate route going through Nebraska.

Two things here. First all this means is that the State Department is doing exactly what it said it would do.  Second, as you can see, TransCanada would be able to reapply. But they would have to start the review process from scratch, and the review could take years. It’s possible that TransCanada would then scrap the project, and seek a pipeline from the tar sands that went through British Columbia and out to shipping routes in Asia rather than through the United States and into the Gulf of Mexico. But local Canadian activists have so far stopped progress on that front.

This announcement would come days before a planned protest of the pipeline in Washington by 350.org. Maybe they’ll turn that into more of a celebration.

I agree that as long as there’s money to be made from taking hydrocarbons out of the ground, the forces who want a pipeline will seek to deliver their product in some fashion. But the environmental community very smartly organized against the pipeline, putting it on the national radar screen, and so far they’re getting results.

One final note: if anyone doubted that Republicans had no interest in actually getting the pipeline built, and just wanted an issue to carry to November to prove that President Obama was “costing the country good energy jobs,” this should dispel them. They craved the issue far more than the pipeline, which they probably feel they can get down the road.

Update: Statement from Bill McKibben:

350.org founder and Keystone XL protest leader, Bill McKibben, had the following reaction the news that the State Department is expected to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline later this afternoon:

“Assuming that what we’re hearing is true, this isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money.

We’re well aware that the fossil fuel lobby won’t give up easily. They have control of Congress. But as the year goes on, we’ll try to break some of that hammerlock, both so that environmental review can go forward, and so that we can stop wasting taxpayer money on subsidies and handouts to the industry. The action starts mid-day Tuesday on Capitol Hill, when 500 referees will blow the whistle on Big Oil’s attempts to corrupt the Congress.”