President Obama on Friday rejected the application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, ending the seven-year saga over the controversial plan to transport oil sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
"The State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision,” Obama said at the White House.
With Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryA presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Equilibrium/Sustainability — Dam failures cap a year of disasters Four environmental fights to watch in 2022 MORE at his side, Obama lamented the intense partisan warfare over the pipeline, arguing that both sides had exaggerated the importance of the project.
"For years, the Keystone pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties, rather than a serious policy matter," Obama said.
"All of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others."
Still, the president said, the pipeline would not do enough to create jobs, and he argued it would damage American energy security and “undercut” the country’s leadership on preventing climate change.
“The pipeline would not make a meaningful, long-term contribution to our economy,” he said.
Obama announced that he will join world leaders in Paris next month at an international climate change summit, where he hopes to broker a sweeping agreement to curb the man-made causes of global warming.
“We want to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and the time to act is now,” Obama said. “I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together.”
Obama said he spoke on Friday morning to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed disappointment about the Keystone decision.
Republicans on Capitol Hill reacted with fury to Obama's announcement. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Wis.) called it "sickening."
“By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs,” Ryan said.
“In the House, we are going to pursue a bold agenda of growth and opportunity for all.”
The rejection of Keystone delivers huge victory to environmental groups, who fought the project every step of the way, and a stinging defeat to Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, who had championed the pipeline's potential job creation.
TransCanada Corp., the developer of the pipeline, this week had asked Obama to halt the State Department’s review of the project while Nebraska considered its proposed route. Granting the delay would have almost certainly pushed the decision to the next president.
But the State Department, which took the lead on reviewing the permit application, rejected TransCanada’s request. Kerry delivered his “final determination” to Obama in a Friday morning meeting before the announcement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenate Republicans call on Biden to lift vaccine mandate for truckers crossing Canadian border Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Native solar startups see business as activism Religious institutions say infrastructure funds will help model sustainability MORE (R-N.D.), a leading congressional proponent of Keystone, called it “ironic that after delaying construction for more than seven years — postponing the jobs, revenues and other benefits that would result from the project — the president now finds it pressing to make a decision just as the company is asking for a pause to resolve any concerns.”
Obama had the authority to decide the fate of Keystone based on a 2004 executive order on infrastructure that crosses international borders.
Opponents of the project argued it would be disastrous for the environment because it would stimulate development of the most carbon-intensive petroleum on the planet. They also feared the pipeline would leak or otherwise harm the areas along its proposed route through the country’s heartland.
“I want to thank the Obama administration for protecting the health of the American people and the health of the planet by rejecting the ill-advised Keystone tar sands pipeline, which would have brought the filthiest oil known to humankind into our country in large amounts,” said Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHarry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Congress can prevent another Jan. 6 by updating a key elections law First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
But the oil industry and congressional Republicans said Keystone would create thousands of jobs and spur economic development. They also touted the benefits of partnering on an oil project with Canada, a close ally.
Republicans this year tried to force Obama to approve the pipeline as one of their first acts after winning majorities in both houses of Congress, but he vetoed the bill.
Obama's rejection of Keystone is sure to spark fierce debate on the campaign trail.
All three of the Democratic candidates for president opposed the project. Though former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket MORE held off on publicizing her opinion until September, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema White House to make 400 million N95 masks available for free MORE (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have long opposed it.
The Republican candidates overwhelmingly favor Keystone.
Updated at 1:58 p.m.