WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, ending the political fight over the Canada-to-Texas project that has gone on for much of his presidency.
Secretary of State John Kerry concluded the controversial project is not in the country’s national security interest, and Obama announced from the White House that he agreed with the decision.
“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly approving this project would have undercut that leadership,” Obama said.
The massive project has been a seven-year political football during presidential and congressional elections that has pitted oil companies and Republicans against environmentalists and liberal activists. The State Department has been reviewing the project for much of Obama’s time in the White House.
The move comes as the White House continues to promote its environmental agenda and efforts to fight climate change. Next month, Obama will attend the Paris climate talks, he announced Friday. The White House is hoping to broker an international agreement committing every country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enact other policies to curb global warming.
Obama said he spoke with new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the decision.
Liberals and environmentalists, including top donors such as California’s Tom Steyer, who has committed tens of millions of dollars to fighting pro-pipeline political candidates, protested Keystone and made it a cause célèbre among Democrats.
The project was a major issue during the 2012 presidential campaign, when GOP candidate Mitt Romney said he would approve the pipeline. Republican candidates in the 2016 race have also pledged to let the project go forward.
In his speech, Obama said that he believed Keystone has had an “over-inflated role in our political discourse, and said the project’s potential to create jobs and the potential environmental threats were exaggerated.
“All of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be the silver bullet to the U.S. economy proclaimed by some, or” the death knell to climate proclaimed by others,” Obama said.
Obama also cited falling gasoline prices as another argument against the project.
“While our politics have been consumed by a debate about whether or not this pipeline would create jobs or lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.”
The average price of regular gasoline hit $3.94 per gallon in April 2012 and stayed well above $3 for the rest of that election year. But this year, prices have been steadily below $3 per gallon.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been caught up in Keystone politics. In October 2010, Clinton indicated she was “inclined” to approve the project but has since backed away from that stance, and in September said she opposes it. Fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also oppose the pipeline, and Clinton faced criticism from the left for not taking a firm stance.
Sanders noted his long-standing opposition to the project in a statement Friday. “It is insane for anyone to be supporting the excavation and transportation of some of the dirtiest fuel on earth,” he said. “As someone who has led the opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Day 1, I strongly applaud the president’s decision to kill this project once and for all.”
TransCanada requested delay
The proposed pipeline would span nearly 1,200 miles across six U.S. states, moving more than 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum daily from Canadian oil sands through Nebraska to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Earlier this week, Kerry rejected a request by TransCanada, the firm behind the $8 billion project, to halt its review of the pipeline as it awaits a separate process at the state level. The company said it could take up to 12 months for the Nebraska process to be completed, adding further delay to the already lengthy approval process. But such a move would have pushed the final decision on Keystone past 2016 and left it to Obama’s successor.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “there may be politics at play” in TransCanada’s request, suggesting it was an attempt to orchestrate such a scenario.
TransCanada, which has spent at least $2.5 billion on the project thus far, first applied for a permit to build the pipeline in 2008.
Earlier this year, Obama vetoed legislation green-lighting the construction of the pipeline. At the time, the White House said it opposed the bill because it would have usurped the President’s authority to approve or deny the creation of the pipeline and short-circuit the State Department analysis.
Proponents of the project, including Republican presidential candidates, say the pipeline would advance energy independence in North America and construction of it will create jobs. Reaction condemning Obama’s decision came swiftly on Friday, with many accusing Obama of catering to the green lobby and political left.
House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t mince words.
This decision isn’t surprising, but it is sickening,” Ryan said in a statement. “By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. He is rejecting our largest trading partner and energy supplier. He is rejecting the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority of the Congress. If the president wants to spend the rest of his time in office catering to special interests, that’s his choice to make. But it’s just wrong. In the House, we are going to pursue a bold agenda of growth and opportunity for all.”
GOP presidential candidates agreed.
“When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement.
“The Obama Admin’s politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted.
“President Obama is bowing to radical environmentalists and snubbing thousands of high quality, high paying energy sector jobs,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted.
“Obama’s rejection of #KeystoneXL will flush American jobs down the drain… all to appease the agenda of science denying radicals,” Jindal said in another tweet.
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