Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

President says transporting crude oil from Canada won't help the economy, lower gas prices, or increase the United States' energy security

In a huge win for environmentalists, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline proposal today.

Had transport company TransCanada’s proposal been approved, the pipeline would have transected six states, carrying crude oil 1,700 miles from Canada’s Alberta tar stands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

President Obama at his desk Official White House Photo by Pete SouzaThe President said that the pipeline was neither be a silver bullet for the economy, nor the express lane to climate disaster.

In a White House press briefing this morning, Obama said that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest of the United States.” The President cited three main reasons for rejecting the project — it wasn’t going to help the economy in any meaningful way, it wouldn’t lower gas prices for Americans, and it wouldn’t increase the country’s energy security.

“Now, for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse,” he said. “It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”

Echoing what many pipeline opponents have been saying, and acknowledging the impact the project would have had on climate change, he added: “Ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

The announcement was major victory for environmental advocates, who had been campaigning against the project for years based on its climate impact as well as the precedent it would set for American energy policy.

“This is a big win,” May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. “President Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL because of its impact on the climate is nothing short of historic — and sets an important precedent that should send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry.” Boeve said Obama’s decision affirmed “the power of social movements” to change politics. “We’re looking to build on this victory, and show that if it’s wrong to build Keystone XL because of its impact on our climate, it’s wrong to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, period,” she said.

The announcement comes of the heels of TransCanada’s request earlier this week that the State Department delay review of its US permit application for the pipeline. Many environmentalists saw this request, which the State Department denied, as an attempt to push the review to after the November 2016 election, in the hopes that the political climate might then be more favorable.

The decision to reject the pipeline comes as world leaders prepare to gather in Paris later this month for international climate negotiations. 

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