Politics

Obama to Reject Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

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By Dave Boyer

In an election-year decision that pits the Democrats' twin pillars of big labor and environmentalists against each other, the Obama administration Wednesday rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have provided tens of thousands of jobs from the Canadian border to Texas.

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President Obama issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he agreed with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to reject the $7 billion, 1,700-mile project, which would have carried oil from tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. He said the project as proposed "would not serve the national interest."

The State Department was involved because the project would have crossed an international border.

"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," Mr. Obama said.

"I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil."

Pressured by environmentalists opposed to the project and labor unions that wanted the jobs it would bring, the administration initially sought to delay a decision until after the November election. But congressional Republicans eager to see the pipeline built inserted language into a tax-cut bill in December that forced Mr. Obama to make a decision on the project by Feb. 21.

The president said the administration couldn't make a responsible decision in that time frame, even though the project has been under review by the government for three years.

"In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico — even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas," Mr. Obama said. "And we will do so in a way that benefits American workers and businesses without risking the health and safety of the American people and the environment."

Republicans, business groups and some Democrats blasted the administration's decision as a lost opportunity in a weak economy, as well as a shortsighted decision that ignores America's energy needs.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, called the president's decision "as shocking as it is revealing."

"It shows a president who once again has put politics ahead of sound policy," Mr. Romney said. "If Americans want to understand why unemployment in the United States has been stuck above 8 percent for the longest stretch since the Great Depression, decisions like this one are the place to begin. By declaring that the Keystone pipeline is not in the 'national interest,' the president demonstrates a lack of seriousness about bringing down unemployment, restoring economic growth and achieving energy independence. He seems to have confused the national interest with his own interest in pleasing the environmentalists in his political base."

Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said American workers and consumers "should be outraged."

"This political decision offers hard evidence that creating jobs is not a high priority for this administration," Mr. Donohue said. "The president's decision sends a strong message to the business community and to investors: Keep your money on the sidelines, America is not open for business. By placing politics over policy, the Obama administration is sacrificing tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs in the short term, and many more than that in the long term."

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, called the decision "a terrible example of election-year politics where the American people are collateral damage."

"The president has said he wakes up every morning thinking about jobs, but a decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline will do nothing but extend the jobs crisis and send thousands of U.S. jobs and valuable oil overseas," Mr. Cornyn said.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said it was "a major setback for the American economy, American workers and America's energy independence."

"Until we are energy independent, it only makes common sense to get our resources from our friends and greatest allies, like Canada," Mr. Manchin said. "I respectfully urge the president to reconsider this decision."

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Republicans have only themselves to blame by forcing an arbitrary deadline.

"If the Republicans cared so much about the Keystone pipeline, they would not have narrowed the president's options by putting it on the time frame that they did," she said. "They left him very little choice."

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said Mr. Obama made the correct decision, calling the pipeline "a bad deal for the country and for our planet."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Feb. 21 deadline desired by congressional Republicans was "a purely partisan effort to score a political point." When reporters pointed out that Mr. Obama signed the law requiring the deadline, Mr. Carney responded, "He signed a law that forced a decision to be made in an arbitrary fashion."

Mr. Carney said that Nebraska officials were opposed to the original pipeline route and that an alternate route has not been determined.

"You don't grant a permit for a pipeline with a significant portion of it missing," he said.

The issue has become wrapped up in presidential politics, as Mr. Obama tries to show that he is "all in" on finding domestic sources of energy and reducing America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Republicans accuse the president of failing to allow aggressive drilling in the United States and kowtowing to environmental groups that are an important part of his liberal base.

Just on Tuesday, the president's jobs council issued a report that advocated the construction of more oil pipelines in the U.S., although the report did not specifically address the Keystone project.

"It is dumbfounding that President Obama's decision to deny the Keystone XL pipeline permit ignores his own Council on Jobs and Competitiveness 'Road Map to Renewal' report," Mr. Donohue said. "It recommends that the United States step up its game on energy and construct pipelines to deliver fuel as a key component of our economic recovery."

Michael Whatley, executive vice president of the Consumer Energy Alliance in Washington, said the group was "extremely disappointed" with the development.

"It is mystifying that they would make this announcement less than 24 hours after the president's own Council on Jobs and Competitiveness specifically called for growth in the energy sector to increase job creation," Mr. Whatley said. "With gasoline prices at record annual highs and Iran threatening the Straits of Hormuz, there is simply no excuse for the administration not to move forward with this project now."

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

This piece originally appeared at The Washington Times

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