NewsJanuary 18, 2012

White House Rejects Permit for Keystone Pipeline

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Andrew Freedman

By Andrew Freedman

The Obama administration announced today that it is rejecting the permit application for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline would have been built by the Canadian firm TransCanada to transport oil from Canadian tar sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas. Congress had mandated that the White House determine the fate of the pipeline by February 21, and the decision was not completely unexpected, since it did not give the Obama administration sufficient time to review potential alternate pipeline routes.

In its announcement, the State Department said the Congressionally mandated timeline prevented them from conducting a review of alternate pipeline routes that would avoid the sensitive Ogallala Aquifer region in Nebraska. 

“Today, the Department of State recommended to President Obama that the presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline be denied and, that at this time, the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline be determined not to serve the national interest. The President concurred with the Department’s recommendation, which was predicated on the fact that the Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest.”

Environmentalists have strongly opposed the pipeline since oil from that region in Canada is more greenhouse gas intensive, and the pipeline would have traveled through the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, a major source of drinking water for millions of Americans. Thousands of activists opposed to the pipeline demonstrated in front of the White House in 2011, including NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who has said if the pipeline is completed, it's “game over” for any hopes of stabilizing the climate.

The oil lobby and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, together with Republican lawmakers, favor the pipeline, arguing it would create thousands of jobs.

Congressional Republicans are mulling new legislation to approve the pipeline even if the White House rejects a permit. 

According to The Hill newspaper, “The result of today's announcement will be a massive call for both sides to 'man your battle stations' through the Sunday talk shows,” said Stephen Brown, a vice president for government affairs with Tesoro, a refining company.”

As the Washington Post reported earlier, the State Department “will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route through the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills.”

More from Climate Central on the Keystone XL decision:
Decision by Obama Won't Keep Oil from Flowing