WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2015 – President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, ending his administration’s seven-year internal debate over the project by concluding that it “would not serve the national interests.”
Obama’s White House announcement came less than a month before the beginning of the Paris climate negotiations.
“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership,” he said, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. “That’s the biggest risk we face.”
Kerry, whose department had to approve the project, issued a statement saying that it would transport a “particularly dirty source of fuel” and that there were concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local communities, water supplies and cultural heritage sites.
“The United States cannot ask other nations to make tough choices to address climate change if we are unwilling to make them ourselves,” he said.
But Obama also downplayed both the impact that the project would have on greenhouse gas emissions as well as its potential economic impact. The 1,179-mile pipeline was proposed to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.
“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,” Obama said.
Reaction from Capitol Hill fell along party lines, reflecting positions that have become entrenched while the project has been under consideration by the State Department. Republicans expressed outrage at the decision, while Democrats were relieved. The frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recently announced her opposition to Keystone.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the decision “sickening,” saying that if Obama “wants to spend the rest of his time in office catering to special interests, that’s his choice to make. But it’s just wrong.”
The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said it was “one of the most radical and dangerous moves that the president could make in his final term.” Bishop called Obama “the most anti-energy extremist President the nation has ever had.”
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the president’s decision was “poorly made” and “deeply cynical.”
“It does not rest on the facts – it continues to distort them. It is a triumph of fringe politics over sound policy. And it sends a deeply negative signal to all who want to invest in America – because this administration has yet again shown it is willing to stand in the way of robust growth and a secure future,” she said.
A leader in congressional efforts to OK the project, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.., said he still believes the pipeline will ultimately be approved, “based on the merits and strong support from the public.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., thanked 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."
Boxer said Keystone XL "would have brought the filthiest oil known to humankind into our country in large amounts.”
But Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said the decision "will cost thousands of jobs and is an assault to American workers,” referring to the construction workforce that would be needed.
"It’s politics at its worst,” he said. "Seven years of review have determined the project is safe and environmentally sound, yet the administration has turned its back on Canada with this decision, and on U.S. energy security as well.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said Obama was putting “politics before the best interests of the country.”
“Rejecting Keystone breaks two promises the president made—to put jobs and growth first and to seek bipartisan solutions,” Donohue said. ““This decision is the latest in a number of administration actions . . . that have undermined America’s energy revolution, slowed growth, and cost good-paying jobs.
(Whitney Forman-Cook contributed to this report.)
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