Exxon CEO: 'Political calculations' halted Keystone pipeline

“Keystone XL would contribute to the national interests of both the United States and Canada by expanding and linking the continent’s enormous oil-sands resources with world-class refining capabilities,” he said at the annual conference hosted by the consulting firm IHS CERA.

“We must continue to engage elected officials and the public to communicate the consequences of failing to move forward with such strategic opportunities,” Tillerson said, according to a copy of his remarks.

Environmentalists and a number of Democrats strongly oppose Keystone because of greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and burning oil sands, forest damage from the massive projects and fear of spill along the pipeline route.

While a number of unions back Keystone, a few also oppose it, a split that has led the umbrella AFL-CIO to steer clear of taking a position.

Republicans have launched a coordinated political assault against the White House over the pipeline rejection, alleging President Obama is missing a chance to boost U.S. energy security and create thousands of jobs.

On Thursday the Senate narrowly blocked a GOP-led bill to approve construction of Keystone, voting 56-42 for the measure when 60 were needed for passage.

But the majority vote — and support of 11 Democrats for the plan — will provide Keystone backers fuel to continue pressing Obama on the matter.

Tillerson said the Obama administration decision on Keystone “negated thousands of hours aimed at regulatory compliance” and “tens of thousands of pages of study that confirmed the pipeline would pose no undue risks to citizens or the environment.”

A State Department environmental analysis released last August found that the project would pose little environmental risk if managed properly.

But the administration months later delayed a final decision until after the 2012 elections, citing the need for more review of the route.

Republicans subsequently imposed a Feb. 21 deadline in a payroll tax cut bill in December. In January the administration rejected the permit, but Obama said the decision was not on the “merits,” instead calling it a response to an “arbitrary” deadline that would short-circuit review.

TransCanada plans to reapply shortly.

In his remarks, Tillerson more broadly lamented what he calls politicized decisions about energy.

“In working to meet surging global energy demand, our energy industry needs to be able to plan over 10-, 20-, even 30-year time horizons,” he said.

“Political considerations based on two- and four-year electoral cycles are a significant hindrance to long-term planning and investment, which can affect jobs and competitiveness for decades,” Tillerson said, denouncing what he alleges has become a burdensome regulatory process that impedes development.

This post was updated at 1:15 p.m.

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