President Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline

National Catholic Reporter

Brian Roewe

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President Barack Obama rejected Friday the construction of the Keystone XL transnational pipeline, in part on grounds that approving the politically contentious project would have undercut U.S. leadership on the world stage in addressing climate change.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline sought to move daily as many as 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil from Alberta tar sands fields to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed project would have stretched 1,100 miles, crossing the U.S.-Canadian border in Montana before linking with already-constructed Keystone pipelines. Unlike the southern leg, the northern leg, due to crossing an international border, required federal approval.

The president made the announcement before noon in Washington, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. He said Kerry had informed him Friday morning that “after extensive public outreach, and consultation with other Cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interests of the United States.”
“I agree with that decision,” Obama said.

The president added that for years, Keystone has held an “over inflated role in our political discourse,” with supporters and opponents each overstating its potential benefit or harm.

“It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And 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,” Obama said.

The president also said the State Department concluded the pipeline would not provide a long-term boost to the economy, that it would not lower gas prices for Americans, and that it would not increase American energy security. In the absence of the pipeline, Obama noted gas prices have lowered, down $1 from 2013, and the U.S. has become more energy independent through producing more oil nationally while at the same time using less of it.

Steps to increase fuel efficiency and renewable energy while decreasing carbon pollution have established the U.S. as a world leader on climate change, the president said, and has led in part to nations representing almost 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions to put forward plans to cut pollution ahead of United Nations climate talks in Paris in December.

“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.

In February, Obama vetoed a bill put forth through the new Republican-led Congress that sought to fast track the pipeline’s construction and bypass State Department approval. Earlier this week, the State Department rejected a request by TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, to delay review of the project.

Throughout the project’s lifespan, environmental activists have raised Keystone as a “line in the sand” issue, with numerous religious groups joining the push against the pipeline.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]