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Keystone pipeline rejected over politics, say Republicans

Obama says he rejected the Keystone pipeline because mandated deadlines would not allow proper a fair review, but Republicans are accusing him of putting politics ahead of sound policy.

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Yet some unions that back Obama oppose the pipeline, included United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union and Communications Workers of America.

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TransCanada says the pipeline could create as many as 20,000 jobs, a figure opponents say is inflated. A State Department report last summer said the pipeline would create up to 6,000 jobs during construction.

Obama appeared to have skirted what some dubbed the "Keystone conundrum" in November when the State Department announced it was postponing a decision on the pipeline until after this year's election. Officials said they needed extra time to study routes that avoid an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska that supplies water to eight states.

The affected area stretches just 65 miles (105 kilometers) through the Sandhills region of northern Nebraska, but the concerns were serious enough that the state's governor and senators opposed the project until the pipeline was moved. The new route, which has not been chosen, would have to be approved by Nebraska environmental officials and the State Department, which has authority because the pipeline would cross an international border.

Obama said his decision does not "change my administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil."

To underscore the point, Obama signaled that he would not oppose development of an oil pipeline from Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada already operates a pipeline from Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma.

Refineries in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast can handle heavy crude such as that extracted from Canadian tar sands — the type of oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline.

Bill McKibben, an environmental activist who led opposition to the pipeline, praised Obama's decision to stand up to what he called a "naked political threat from Big Oil." Jack Gerard, the oil industry's top lobbyist, had said last week that Obama faced "huge political consequences" if he rejected the pipeline.

"It's not only the right thing, it's a very brave thing to do," McKibben said. "That's the Barack Obama I think people thought they were electing back in 2008."

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