Obama rejects Keystone pipeline

Obama rejects Keystone pipeline

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.

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With Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents 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 RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration 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 HoevenDem lawmaker 'confident' bipartisan group will strike deal on border funding Congress in painful start to avoid second shutdown Republicans want Trump to keep out of border talks 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 BoxerNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list 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 ClintonSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants MORE held off on publicizing her opinion until September, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 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.