The Obama administration has rejected the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, having concluded that the project does not “serve the national interest of the United States.”
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, whose department was charged with making a recommendation on the controversial project, made the formal announcement regarding the pipeline, which would have run from Canada into the U.S., on Friday.
“The State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States,” Obama said. “I agree with that decision.”
Friday's announcement was hailed as “courageous and historic” by environmental groups, but denounced by Republicans who supported the project, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calling the decision “sickening.”
Obama said the pipeline would not have made a “meaningful contribution” to the U.S. economy and would not lower gas prices for consumers or increase America's energy security. He also said the U.S. had to lead on efforts to battle climate change, saying “we have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.”
But he criticized the “overinflated” role that the Keystone project had played in the political discourse in Washington, saying the pipeline would have neither been “a silver bullet” to U.S. energy security nor “the express lane to climate disaster.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government was “disappointed” by the decision, but said the relationship with the U.S. was “much bigger than any one project.”
The decision on Friday comes just days after the administration rejected a request by the pipeline’s builder, TransCanada, to delay a final verdict on Keystone XL and ahead of international talks next month in Paris on combating climate change.
“We've got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we've got while we can,” Obama said.
The decision ends a seven-year saga that became one of the biggest environmental flashpoints of Obama's presidency.
The 1,179-mile pipeline would have run from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Supporters said the project would have created jobs and reduced U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil. They argue that pipelines are a safer method of transporting oil than trains, pointing to recent derailments on both sides of the American-Canada border, including a 2013 disaster in Quebec that killed 47 people.
“This decision isn't surprising, but it is sickening,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. said in a statement. “If the president 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. In the House, we are going to pursue a bold agenda of growth and opportunity for all.”
But opponents said the project would have required huge amounts of energy and water, and led to an increase in harmful greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. They also warned that pipeline leaks could potentially pollute underground aquifers that are a critical source of water for farmers in the Great Plains.
“Today President Obama said yes to clean energy and public health, and no to dirty oil and dangerous pollution,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club said in a statement.
Randy Thompson of anti-Keystone group the All Risk, No Reward Coalition called the president's announcement “courageous and historic,” saying “he did what was right in the face of a totally misguided and unrelenting effort by the Republican party and big oil to shove this pipeline down our throats.”
But while environmental groups said that the cancellation of Keystone was a victory, there were still several other pipeline projects by the Calgary-based company Enbridge Inc. pending federal and state approvals.
The most controversial is its proposed Alberta Clipper (Line 67) pipeline, a cross-border project that aims to double the line's capacity from 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 880,000 bpd.
Another Enbridge project known as the Sandpiper, would transport oil from North Dakota's Bakken fields through Minnesota to refineries in Wisconsin. It is currently pending state and federal regulatory approval.
With wire services