After seven long years, President Barack Obama has given his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. In an announcement in the White House’s Roosevelt Room on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, just after noon, President Obama announced his decision rejecting TransCanada Corp’s request for a permit to build the pipeline from the Canadian border through the country to the Gulf of Mexico. The decision disappointed new Canadian Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau, who although from Canada‘s Liberal Party supported the pipeline. Republicans including presidential candidates, who supported the project criticized President Obama’s decision, while most Congressional Democrats, Democratic presidential candidates, and environmentalists praised the decision.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
In making his announcement, President Obama was joined by Secretary of State of John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. Obama announced, “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.”
The president expressed his dismay at how politicizing the review has been, saying, “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 disagreed with either side, those who supported and opposed the construction and their extreme views on the matter. Obama remarked, “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.”
President Obama has downplayed the economic benefits and has mostly focused on the environmental issues, ignoring a third maybe more important factor, it is safer to transport oil through pipelines than railroads or trucks. After the Lac Megantic, Quebec tragedy in 2013, Canadians understand firsthand the dangers of transporting oil by rail as opposed to a pipeline. Obama again downplayed any job creating benefits, saying, “The pipeline would not make a meaningful, long-term contribution to our economy.”
President Obama wants the US to lead on climate change, and it is something the president highlighted, “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 leadership.” The president is attending the international climate change summit in Paris next month, where world leaders plan to discuss a deal on global warming. Obama indicated, “We want to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and the time to act is now. I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together.”
Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement earlier the morning, where he indicated that climate change was the main reason behind the decision. Kerry wrote, “The critical factor in my determination was this: moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change.”
Obama’s decision was met with cheers and jeers. New Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a statement where he said, “This decision isn’t surprising, but it is sickening… By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. In the House, we are going to pursue a bold agenda of growth and opportunity for all.”
Republican presidential candidates also criticized the decision on Twitter. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio promised, “When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush commented, “The Obama Admin’s politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs.” While Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “President Obama is bowing to radical environmentalists and snubbing thousands of high quality, high paying energy sector jobs.”
Environmentalists fought throughout the State Department’s review for the permit to be rejected. Most Democrats opposed the projects as well, including all three Democratic presidential candidates. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders long opposed the pipeline. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just clarified her opposition in September. There were, however, Congressional Democrats that supported the project and voted in February for its construction. Sanders praised Obama’s decision stating, “As someone who has led the opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Day 1, I strongly applaud the president’s decision to kill this project once and for all.”
Congressional Republicans advocate the building of the pipeline saying it will bring jobs, but the pipeline is more central to Canada’s economy. The Keystone XL oil sands pipeline has been a contentious issue for both countries. The 1,900 km or 1,179-mile project would carry oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Nebraska through to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Over 800,000 barrels of oil would pass through the pipeline each day to American refineries, creating thousands of jobs and a definite boon to the economies on both sides of the border.
The decision comes just two days after Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in, marking a difficult start in relations between the two leaders. President Obama phoned Trudeau in the morning before his announcement notifying the new Canadian leader about his decision. Obama recounted, “I had the opportunity to speak with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that are close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.”
Trudeau issued a statement saying, “The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project, and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.” Continuing the new Prime Minister said, “We know that Canadians want a government that they can trust to protect the environment and grow the economy. The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts, and create the clean jobs of tomorrow.”
Secretary Kerry also spoke with Canada’s new Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and mentioning the effects on the decision for Canada in his statement. Kerry said, “As Secretary of State, I fully recognize the importance of this project to Canada, one of our closest strategic allies and energy trading partners. We consulted with our Canadian friends, and I spoke with Foreign Minister Dion today regarding this decision. While we understand the impact of this decision on Canada, I am confident that our close and long-standing relationship with Canada will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead.”
In February, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to fast-track the pipeline’s approval, however, President Obama vetoed the bill, and Congress did not have enough votes to override the veto. The administration’s decision came “2,604 days” since TransCanada first applied for the permit, earlier in the week the Canadian company requested that the State Department delay the decision on their review, they refused. Kerry had already made his decision on Tuesday, Nov.3 and only made the announcement Friday. The project would have cost $8 billion; so far construction has cost $2.5 billion.
TransCanada has not yet indicated it if it will reapply, the company issued a statement saying, “Those options include filing a new application to receive a Presidential Permit for a cross-border crude oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.” TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling said, “Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science – rhetoric won out over reason. TransCanada is reviewing the decision and its rationale. We believe KXL is in the best interest of the United States and Canada.” TransCanada has requested state-by-state permits and is awaiting the decision from the first state needed to construct the pipeline through, Nebraska, a decision that can take another year.