TransCanada Corp., developer of the Keystone XL pipeline, has withdrawn its application for route approval through Nebraska, but a spokesman says the Canadian company reserves the right to reapply.

TransCanada made the announcement Wednesday, a day before it was scheduled to appear before the Nebraska Public Service Commission for a planning conference.

"As we carefully consider our options with regards to the project, we have withdrawn our application to the Nebraska Public Service Commission. We believe it is inappropriate to ask the commission to continue to move forward on a process that has legally set time lines, while we continue to consider our next course of action," the company said in a statement.  

In a separate announcement today, the Calgary-based company confirmed it was announcing layoffs, but refused to say how many might lose their jobs.

Before President Barack Obama rejected a federal permit for the project, Nebraska had been a major roadblock because of lawsuits filed by landowners and environmental groups.

The pipeline was projected to carry 800,000 barrels a day of crude from Canada and North Dakota to Nebraska, where existing pipelines would bring it to Gulf Coast refineries.

Opposition in Nebraska

TransCanada's latest move is unlikely to halt the debate in Nebraska anytime soon. Landowners who oppose the project have said they are worried the company still has legal rights to large stretches of land along the pipeline's proposed route and could sell those easements to another pipeline company.

"Let's close this chapter in our state once and for all," said Jane Kleeb, director of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska.

Opponents also plan to continue with lawsuits challenging the state law which allowed former Gov. Dave Heineman to approve the route through Nebraska in 2013

Company spokesman Mark Cooper says TransCanada may reapply in the future and is committed to completing the final leg of the Keystone pipeline system.

Mexican pipelines

In an Investor Day on Tuesday, TransCanada executives reiterated their disappointment in Obama's Keystone XL rejection, but continued to refer to the project in the present tense during their presentations. The company is weighing its options, which could include reapplying for a cross-border permit under a new U.S. administration.

The company has sunk about $2.4 billion US into Keystone XL, about 40 per cent of which Paul Miller, the executive in charge of liquids pipelines, says can be recovered. About half of the expenditure so far has been on tangible items like pipe that could, at least in part, be put to other use.

In the meantime, the company is concentrating on smaller, less high-profile projects including expansions to TransCanada's existing natural gas networks, natural gas pipelines in Mexico, regional oil pipelines and power generation facilities.

TransCanada said it has $35 billion in large-scale projects on the go and  $13 billion in small- to medium-sized developments that are expected to come into service over the next three years.