President Barack Obama’s rejected the Keystone XL pipeline linking Canada to Gulf Coast refineries Friday saying it would “not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy and would not “lower gas prices for American consumers.”
Obama pointed out gasoline prices have been falling steadily for the past two years.
The pipeline, which would have crossed six states, emerged as a political symbol for the struggle between those who want to combat climate change and those who believed it would create construction jobs and spur the economy.
Obama said the pipeline occupied an “overinflated role in our political discourse,” adding “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.”
Trans Canada, a Canadian energy company, had been asking the United States since 2007 to approve the 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have connected to an existing pipeline in Nebraska to ship oil from the tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.
Republicans slam decision
Ohio Republicans, including presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, quickly assailed Obama’s decision. At a town hall meeting in Hopkinton, N.H., Kasich charged Obama chose the interests of environmentalists over “blue-collar workers” who “were going to build the pipeline.”
“To me the blue collar workers — they are people that I believe in,” said Kasich, who is seeking next year’s Republican presidential nomination. “And they got the shaft. And in terms of us, if we don’t have cheap energy it’s a great asset for us. I’m not surprised we knew this would happen. It’s a shame, it’s a real shame.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he was “disappointed” in Obama’s decision, calling the pipeline “a bipartisan, commonsense, and job-creating energy initiative.”
By contrast, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said “the Canadian tar sands are a serious problem for climate change. We should be working the other way on climate change and not continue so we create more problems for our children and grandchildren.”
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who is challenging former Gov. Ted Strickland in next spring’s Senate Democratic primary, called Obama’s decision “an important win for the environment.”
Strickland has yet to take a position on the pipeline. His campaign had previously said climate was a serious challenge, but he also that he understood the need to create jobs.
Tar sands are a mixture of clay, sand and heavy crude oil. Companies mine the sand in open pits and transport it to processing plants, where the crude oil and sand are separated.
Environmentalists had complained that kind of oil is particularly dirty and would increase emissions of carbon dioxide, which cause climate change.
After speaking with Canada’s new elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday morning Obama said that Trudeau expressed his disappointment, but “both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.”
Obama heading to Paris for climate talks
Although Obama in 2013 said his litmus test for Keystone would be whether it increased U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, his final decision appeared based on other factors. He didn’t broach that topic in his remarks, and State Department officials said they’d determined Keystone wouldn’t significantly affect carbon pollution levels.
Instead, the administration cited the “broad perception” that Keystone would carry “dirty” oil, and suggested approval would raise questions abroad about whether the U.S. was serious about climate change.
“Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership,” the president said.
Obama will travel to Paris at the end of the month for talks on a global climate agreement, which the president hopes will be the crowning jewel for his environmental legacy. Killing the pipeline allows Obama to claim aggressive action, strengthening his hand as world leaders gather in France.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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