WH: Podesta sidestep on Keystone not a recusal

Incoming White House counselor John Podesta's move to sidestep discussions on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is not a recusal, the White House said on Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Podesta, a known environmentalist and vocal opponent of the TransCanada proposed pipeline, asked to be kept out of talks surrounding the pipeline, The New Yorker reported on Tuesday evening.

But Josh Earnest, White House deputy press secretary, said Podesta's decision should not be taken as a recusal.

"The word 'recuse' here is not the right word," Earnest said during the White House's daily briefing.

"There's no suggestion of some sort of conflict of interest, financial or otherwise as it relates to Mr. Podesta's opinions, views and positions on the Keystone pipeline.

"So 'recuse' is not the right word," Earnest said.

Podesta simply thought it best that he not enter a discussion that he has "well known" views on and did not want to come in at "the very end or near the very end," Earnest said.

"[It] doesn't seem to be the best way to carry out that process and to move it across the finish line," Earnest added.

The  administration has yet to make its decision on the proposed pipeline, which would carry crude from oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf.

During a reporter roundtable on Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the State Department has not shared when it plans to release its environmental impact statement on the pipeline.

An NRDC spokesman said it is highly unlikely that President Obama would announce a decision on the pipeline by the end of March, as recently reported.

For Obama to do so, the State Department would need to release its impact statement within the next two weeks.