Obama Rejects $8b Oil Pipeline Project

Obama Rejects $8b Oil Pipeline Project Obama Rejects $8b Oil Pipeline Project

Ending a seven-year political saga, President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline project on Friday, declaring it would have undercut US efforts to clinch a global climate change deal at the center of his environmental legacy.

Obama’s decision marked an unambiguous victory for environmental activists who spent years denouncing the pipeline, lobbying the administration and even chaining themselves to tractors to make their point about the threat posed by dirty fossil fuels. It also places the president and fellow Democrats in direct confrontation with Republicans and energy advocates heading into the 2016 US presidential election, AP reported.

The president, announcing his decision at the White House, said he agreed with a State Department conclusion that the $8 billion pipeline would not advance US national interests. He lamented that both political parties had “overinflated” Keystone into a proxy battle for climate change but glossed over his own role in allowing the controversy to drag out over several national elections.

“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,” he said.

Although Obama in 2013 said his litmus test for Keystone would be whether it increased US greenhouse gas emissions, his final decision appeared based on other factors. He did not broach that topic in his remarks, and State Department officials said they had determined Keystone would not significantly affect carbon pollution levels.

Instead, the administration cited the “broad perception” that Keystone would carry “dirty” oil, and suggested approval would raise questions abroad about whether the US was serious about climate change.

“Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership,” the president said.

Obama will travel to Paris at the end of the month for talks on a global climate agreement, which the president hopes will be the crowning jewel for his environmental legacy. Killing the pipeline allows Obama to claim aggressive action, strengthening his hand as world leaders gather in France.

Though environmental groups hailed Friday as a “day of celebration,” Obama’s decision was unlikely to be the last word for Keystone XL.

TransCanada, the company behind the proposal, said it remained “absolutely committed” to building the project and was considering filing a new application for permits. The company has previously raised the possibility of suing the US to recoup the more than $2 billion it says it has already spent on development.

“Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science. Rhetoric won out over reason,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling. His criticism was echoed by Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Obama had rejected tens of thousands of jobs while railroading Congress.

“This decision isn’t surprising, but it is sickening,” Ryan said.

Already, the issue has spilled over into the presidential race. The Republican field is unanimous in support of Keystone, while the Democratic candidates are all opposed — including Hillary Rodham Clinton, who oversaw the early part of the federal review as Obama’s first-term secretary of state.

TransCanada first applied for Keystone permits 2,604 days ago in September 2008 — shortly before Obama was elected. As envisioned, Keystone would snake from Canada’s tar sands through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

  Environmentally Destructive

The Keystone XL proposal aimed to build a 1,900-kilometer pipeline from the Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska.

Alberta’s tar sands are considered to have the ‘dirtiest’ oil on the planet. Unlike traditional crude which gushes from a well, tar sand oil must be dug up and essentially melted with steaming hot water before it can be refined.

This means more fossil fuels need to be burned as part of the extraction process, which further contributes to climate change. It also results in huge lakes of polluted water and the strip-mining of millions of acres of once-pristine boreal forests.

Environmentalists argue tar sand oil contains a harmful and corrosive component — bitumen — which makes pipeline ruptures or leaks more likely and carries greater health and safety risks.

Obama conveyed his decision by phone to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sworn in just this week. Trudeau said he was “disappointed by the decision” but pledged to pursue a “fresh start” with Obama nevertheless — a theme Obama echoed as he announced his decision to the American public.

TransCanada had asked the Obama administration on Monday to pause the review in a move seen by many as an attempt to postpone a decision until a new US president took over in 2017.