News Articles Featured | Washington Post | January 18, 2012
President Obama, declaring that he would not bow to congressional pressure, announced Wednesday that he was rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project that would have stretched from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.
Obama said that a Feb. 21 deadline set by Congress as part of the two-month payroll tax cut extension had made it impossible to do an adequate review of the pipeline project proposed by TransCanada.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” the president said in a statement.
The decision and the language that accompanied it made clear that the White House, far from deflecting a political issue until after the election, was fully engaged in a battle with pipeline proponents. Obama said that his administration had worked to improve energy security through higher fuel-efficiency standards, and that it would explore ways to relieve the pipeline bottleneck slowing oil shipments between a major terminal in Cushing, Okla., and the nation’s gulf coast refineries.
The administration will allow TransCanada to reapply for a permit after it develops an alternate route around the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills. The administration’s decision includes language making it clear that TransCanada can reapply, stating, “The determination does not preclude any subsequent permit application or applications for subsequent projects.”
Industry officials and analysts said they expect TransCanada to submit a new route proposal for the Nebraska leg of the pipeline within two weeks. TransCanada declined to comment on the matter Wednesday.
The effect of the administration’s move will probably be to delay the politically sensitive pipeline decision until after the presidential election, though the issue itself could help define the campaign fight between Republicans and Democrats. Environmental groups have lobbied against the project, arguing that the difficult extraction of oil sands contributes to climate change and that the pipeline itself poses leak risks. Supporters of the pipeline say it will create jobs and enhance U.S. energy security by increasing oil supplies from a friendly neighbor.
“President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs. This is not the end of this fight.”
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney issued a statement even before the administration’s formal announcement, accusing Obama of putting “politics ahead of sound policy,” and adding that the move illustrates why unemployment has been consistently above 8 percent.