Why President Obama rejected construction of Keystone XL oil pipeline

In a key victory for environmentalists, President Obama said the Keystone XL pipeline would undercut US global leadership on climate change. 

Jonathan Ernst /Reuters
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, delivers a statement on the Keystone XL pipeline, at the White House in Washington November 6, 2015. Obama rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

President Obama announced Friday that he will reject an application from Canadian energy giant TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Speaking from the White House, Mr. Obama cited concerns about the pipeline's impact on climate change, and the need for American leadership on that problem, as main reasons for his decision.

"America’s now a global leader in taking serious action to fight climate change," Obama said. "And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that's the biggest risk we face, not acting."

The nearly 1,200 mile-long pipeline would have carried high-carbon tar sands oil from Canada to the US Gulf coast and was fiercely opposed by environmentalists.  

Obama hinted at a Keystone decision in his speech at Georgetown University in 2013.

He said, “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

In his remarks on Friday, Obama outlined reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline, including that it was not in the national interest of the United States.

“The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about creating jobs, this was not the way to do it,” Obama said.

"The pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers. In fact, gas prices have already been falling," the president said. "The national average gas price is down about 77 cents over a year ago. It’s down a dollar over two years ago. It’s down $1.27 over three years ago. Today, in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two bucks a gallon."

He added, “Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security. What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the last several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world,” Obama said.

Earlier this week, TransCanada asked the US State Department to put its review of the project on hold. The company cited a legal challenge in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route, saying the process will take seven to 12 months to be resolved, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The State Department, however, rejected the request.

The Associated Press reports that following the decision, TransCanada said it remained "absolutely committed" to building the project and was considering filing a new application for permits.

"Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science. Rhetoric won out over reason," said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling. 

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