Chu: Keystone pipeline decision 'political'

Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Monday the decision to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a political one, and not one founded in science.

At a news conference in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Chu said he has no stance on the issue, according to Oil & Gas Journal

“I don’t have a position on whether the Keystone pipeline should be built. That is for the secretary of State and the president. But I will say that the decision on whether the construction should happen was a political one and not a scientific one,” Chu said.

Afterward, he clarified to Oil & Gas Journal that the studies ordered by the Obama administration to examine the pipeline’s effect on the environment are the only scientific aspects of the project. 

“The entire statement should include that the studies looking into what are the long-term effects are in fact scientific and that is the only scientific part of the decision,” said Chu, who was in the Caribbean to speak at an annual energy conference and trade show. 

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Chu served as Obama’s Energy secretary from 2009 to last April. He’s now a physics professor at Stanford University in California. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. 

On Friday, the State Department released a long-awaited report that concluded the proposed 1,179-mile northern leg of the pipeline would not have significant environmental effects.

If approved, the northern leg would cost $5.4 billion. The southern leg of the pipeline, which now runs from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, is already in use. TransCanada built that half, and began pumping oil through it last month.

President Obama is expected to make a final decision over whether to sign off on the rest of the project later this year.

Several agencies, meanwhile, will now have 90 days to gauge the project’s national interest. The State Department has also opened up a 30-day public comment period for its new report. 

--This report was updated at 10:59 a.m.