President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.’s bid to build the Keystone XL pipeline, ending seven years of debate over an infrastructure project that swelled into one of the most contentious environmental issues of his presidency.
A lengthy review by the State Department concluded that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest of the United States,” Obama said Friday at the White House. “I agree with that decision.”
Obama said the project wouldn’t make a meaningful contribution to the U.S. economy, lower gasoline prices or enhance the nation’s energy security. It also would have undercut U.S. global leadership on climate change, he said.
The decision comes just a month before world leaders from about 190 countries are scheduled to gather in Paris for United Nations-sponsored climate talks, where they hope to forge an international agreement to limit global warming through new environmental standards. Obama has made getting the accord a top priority of his second term, and achieving it will serve as central part of his legacy in office.
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The rejection is a victory for environmental advocates, who sought to couple the 1,179-mile pipeline with Obama’s campaign to combat global warming. Backers said Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs, increase U.S. energy security, and help an important ally in Canada develop its energy resources.
Environmental activist Bill McKibben, an early organizer of opposition to the pipeline, said the decision gives Obama “new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight.”
McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, said that environmental activists “are well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration.”
TransCanada said it will review all of its options in light of the permit denial. Those alternatives include filing a new application to receive a presidential permit for a cross-border crude oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. because the industry still supports the project, Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling said in a statement following the rejection.
Republican presidential candidates began criticizing the decision before it had even been formally announced. “The Obama Admin’s politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tweeted. House Speaker Paul Ryan said by scuttling the pipeline Obama is “rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”
According to the State Department, the construction of the pipeline would have supported about 42,000 jobs, about 3,900 directly tied to building Keystone. Once up and running, pipeline operations would have required about 50 jobs.
The October employment report released Friday, which showed the U.S. gaining 271,000 jobs during the month and the jobless rate falling to a seven-year low of 5 percent, provided Obama with additional ammunition to rebut the arguments of pipeline proponents. He said said Keystone had taken on “an over-inflated role in our political discourse.”