Obama Cites Climate Change, Says Keystone XL Pipeline Is Not In The United States’ National Interest

Proposed route of Keystone XL Pipeline
Proposed route of Keystone XL Pipeline
Proposed route of Keystone XL Pipeline

On Friday President Obama  announced that his administration won’t be issuing a permit for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would have carried Canadian crude oil through America’s heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.

Obama said that the Keystone XL pipeline was not in the United States’ national interest and would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the American economy or lower gas prices for American consumers.

The decision has won praise from environmentalists who worked for 7 years to defeat the 1,179 mile oil pipeline that became a symbol of the debate over climate change and would have pumped 8, 330 barrels of expensive “dirty crude oil” each day to Baker, Montana where American produced oil would be added to the pipeline before moving through South Dakota and Nebraska and join the existing Keystone pipelines at Steele City, Nebraska while heading south to ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2010 environmental group Sierra Club played a large role persuading the State Department to prepare the first environment impact statement and criticized the pipeline proposal for not having an alternative route that transports oil away from the environmentally sensitive Sands Hill region in Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer.

The U.S. State Department, which controls permits for projects that cross international boundaries, agreed with Sierra Club arguments and conducted an environmental review that slowed the initial approval process.

Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the State Department in 2012 after it discovered that conflict of interest rules were violated when selecting a  environmental consultant who was a member of the American Petroleum Institute and had previously performed contract work for TransCanada Corporation which operates the existing Keystone pipeline.

TransCanada Corp changed the original proposed route of Keystone XL to minimize “disturbance of land, water resources and special areas” and in January 2013 the new route was approved by Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the risks of oil spills along the proposed Keystone XL route in the United States and cited the 17 percent higher greenhouse emissions from extracting oil sands in Alberta compared to the extraction of conventional oil.

After passing the House of Representatives and the Senate in early 2015, President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL bill on February 24th that would have allowed for its passage.

On March 4th the Senate failed to reach two-thirds majority votes to override President Obama’s veto.

Last Monday November 2nd TransCanada asked the Obama administration to suspend its permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Canadian oil sands producers need crude barrel priced between $65-$75 to become profitable.

On Friday West Texas intermediate crude was priced at $44.52 a barrel.

The cost of crude oil has dropped in recent months due to a large supply of oil in the market, increased U.S. shale production, and weaker global growth.

Reactions To The Decision

Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he is disappointed by President Obama’s decision to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline but he acknowledged that “the Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project.”

U.S. Republican politicians criticized Obama’s decision on Friday to not issue a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) issued the following statement:

“This decision is no surprise,” said Rounds. “While disappointing, this underscores the need for Congress to take affirmative action to see that this project is allowed to move forward. The Keystone XL pipeline would bring millions of dollars of tax revenue to local units of government in South Dakota. It would also ease the congestion on our rail system allowing us to move our crops to market in a more timely and efficient manner.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted, “So sad that Obama rejected Keystone Pipeline. Thousands of jobs, good for the environment, no downside!”

Jeb Bush tweeted, ” The Obama Admin’s politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs.

Marco Rubio tweeted, “When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backwards energy policies will come to an end.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democrat presidential candidates tweeted their support for President Obama recent decision.

Bernie Sanders tweeted: “As a leader in the opposition to Keystone XL from Day 1, I strongly applaud the president’s decision to kill this project once and for all. ”

Hilary Clinton tweeted: “The right call. Now it’s time to make American a clean energy superpower.”

Martin O’Malley tweeted: “I’ve long opposed #Keystone XL because we know it will exacerbate climate change and extend our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Obama Speaks To Reporters About His Decision

President Obama told reporters last Friday that the United States is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change and pointed out that he has worked with China in the past to lower greenhouse emissions.

“Today, we’re continuing to lead by example.  Because 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.”

Obama said that as long as he is president “America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world.”

In three weeks, President Obama and world leaders will meet in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference from Nov. 30-December 11th.

-John Schweitzer      schweitz31@gmail.com

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