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Breaking: President Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

The pipeline would have transported 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada to Gulf Coast refineries and was one of the hardest-fought environmental battles in recent history.

by VICE News
Nov 6 2015, 5:00pm

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Barack Obama announced on Friday his decision to reject TransCanada's permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, seemingly bringing to a close one of the most controversial and hard-fought environmental battles in recent years.

"This morning Secretary Kerry informed me that, after extensive public outreach and consultation with other cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interests of the United States," he said, adding, "I agree with that decision."

In a statement, TransCanada said it would continue its efforts to construct the pipeline. 

"TransCanada and its shippers remain absolutely committed to building this important energy infrastructure project," said Russ Girling, the company's president and chief executive officer. "We will review our options to potentially file a new application for border-crossing authority to ship our customer's crude oil, and will now analyze the stated rationale for the denial."

The $8 billion pipeline would have transported 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada's tar sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Environmentalist drew a line in the sand over the project, saying approval would be "game over for the climate."

Newly-sworn in Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement, "We are disappointed by the decision but respect the right of the United States to make the decision."

"The Canada-US relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation," said Trudeau, who has been a long-time supporter of the Keystone XL project.

"We know that Canadians want a government that they can trust to protect the environment and grow the economy," he said. "The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts and create the clean jobs of tomorrow."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama had caved to "deep-pocketed special interests and extremists." 

"Given this project's importance to North American energy independence, the question still remains not if but when Keystone will be built. Republicans have no intention of giving up on common-sense jobs ideas like Keystone," he said. "Our nation's long-term need for the energy and jobs Keystone would provide will certainly outlast the little over a year remaining in the term of the current Administration."

In a statement, the American Petroleum Institute called Obama's decision an "assault against American workers."

"It's ironic that the administration would strike a deal to allow Iranian crude onto the global market while refusing to give our closest ally, Canada, access to U.S. refineries," API's president and chief executive officer Jack Gerard said. "This decision will cost thousands of jobs and is an assault to American workers. It's politics at its worst. 

Obama pushed back, though, against accusations that he was turning his back on an important engine for job growth. 

"The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy," he said. "So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would, and in the long run would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come."

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest jobs report, showing that 271,000 jobs were created in October, exceeding economists' expectations and helping to bring the unemployment rate down to 5 percent, the lowest its been in seven and a half years. 

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Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the decision represented a "courageous leap forward" in combatting climate change.

"Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is right for our nation, for our children and for our planet," she said. "It would have locked in, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels on the planet — posing a serious threat to our air, land water, and climate. The proposal, pushed largely by the fossil fuel industry, was a recipe for disaster. In no way was the pipeline in America's national interest."

Obama's decision comes just days after TransCanada requested a delay from the administrating in deciding on whether or not to green light the project.

Following TransCanada's request, the State Department, which Obama designated as the lead agency to review the permit, said it would continue its deliberation of the company's proposal. And the White House said Obama would make a decision on the project before the end of his term. 

Obama's rejection comes ahead of UN climate talks in Paris later this month, where diplomats will seek to secure a deal on cutting carbon emissions in order to keep global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Age levels. 

Jennifer Morgan, global director or the World Resources Institute's climate program, said Obama's decision would send a signal that would reverberate within the UN negotiations. 

"It shows that the Obama administration is serious about moving the country toward clean, renewable energy sources." she said. "A strong agreement in Paris will reaffirm the need to accelerate the pace and scale of this shift toward a zero carbon economy."

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