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Obama Says No to Keystone XL Pipeline

The end of a seven-year environmental battle.

President Barack Obama in 2012, via Flickr user Matt Wansley

President Barack Obama announced today that his administration would not approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, concluding a seven-year State Department review of the project.


“[A]fter 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,” Obama said in a statement. “I agree with that decision.”

The decision comes less than a week after the oil company TransCanada requested to suspend its application to build the pipeline, a move environmental groups say was meant to punt the decision on the project to the winner of the 2016 presidential election. The State Department rejected that delay request yesterday.

The Keystone XL pipeline would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Nebraska, and then down to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Obama cited environmental concerns as he explained his administration’s rationale. “Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security,” Obama said. The Keystone XL proposal had become a rallying point for environmentalists, who argued the project would increase the consumption of fossil fuels and hasten climate change, make water pollution and waste more likely, and lead to widespread deforestation during its construction phase.

via Wikimedia Commons user chesapeakeclimate

“[This] represents a courageous leap forward in the climate fight,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said today in a statement. “Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is right for our nation, for our children and for our planet. 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 Rice University historian Douglas G. Brinkley told the New York Times that the administration’s decision to reject the pipeline will burnish President Obama’s environmental legacy. “Once the grass-roots movement on the Keystone pipeline mobilized, it changed what it meant to the president,” he said. “It went from a routine infrastructure project to the symbol of an era.”

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