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Obama Administration Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

Bill McKibben: "This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers"

Common Dreams staff

photo: Christine Irvine / Tar Sands Action

The White House has rejected the proposal for the tar sands carrying Keystone XL pipeline today, news sources are reporting.

The Toronto Star reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama denied TransCanada Corp.’s application to build the pipeline, citing a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” imposed by Congress to review the project.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. founder and Keystone XL protest leader Bill McKibben reacting to expected news of pipeline rejection stated:

“Assuming that what we’re hearing is true, this isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money.

We’re well aware that the fossil fuel lobby won’t give up easily. They have control of Congress. But as the year goes on, we’ll try to break some of that hammerlock, both so that environmental review can go forward, and so that we can stop wasting taxpayer money on subsidies and handouts to the industry. The action starts mid-day Tuesday on Capitol Hill, when 500 referees will blow the whistle on Big Oil’s attempts to corrupt the Congress.”

Unfortunately, even if the White House formally rejects the proposal today, it may not be a complete end to the Keystone XL. Postmedia News reports:

Even if the State Department denies the existing pipeline, it's possible TransCanada could make a new application that includes an alternative Keystone XL route. The Obama administration was examining how it could reject the pipeline without killing Keystone XL altogether, the Washington Post reported last week.

Environmental group Center for Biological Diversity stated this afternoon that Pres. Obama should reject the pipeline outright.

“President Obama is making the right decision in denying the Keystone XL pipeline today,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the president should reject the pipeline outright. A reroute in Nebraska, or allowing a portion of the pipeline, will not alleviate the tremendous environmental impacts of the Keystone XL.”


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“In standing up to the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry today, President Obama heard the voice of the people and gave us new hope that we can set short-term business interests aside to do what’s right for the world and our children,” said Greenwald. “It’s vital that the president reject future proposals for tar-sands pipelines too, along with offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.”

“Sooner or later, destruction of the environment for resource extraction always leaves people poor in its wake,” said Greenwald. “Today’s a good day for the millions of Americans dependent on water from the Ogallala Aquifer and the many rivers crossed by the pipeline, who will no longer have to worry that a spill will pollute their water.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made the following statement on the decision:

"The president made the correct decision today in rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and I will fight to ensure Congress does not overturn the decision.

"The United States must help lead the world in combating global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It would be incomprehensible to give approval to a tar sands oil project when producing tar sands oil creates 82 percent more carbon emissions than conventional oil, and when it poses the risk of extremely damaging oil spills. I agree with NASA scientist James Hansen who has stated that fully exploiting the tar sands would mean ‘game over' for our efforts to reverse global warming.

"If we are serious about protecting the planet and improving our economy, America's energy future must focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. We know that by improving the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon, an easily achievable accomplishment, we can save up to three times more oil per day than Keystone XL would carry.

"In my view, this tar sands pipeline is a bad deal for the country and for our planet, and the president has acted in the best interest of the American people in saying no to Keystone XL."

Green group Friends of the Earth also praised today's announcement:

"President Obama has shown bold leadership in standing up to Big Oil and rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "The climate movement took on Goliath and won, demonstrating its growing strength. Sustained grassroots pressure aimed at holding the president accountable to the public interest proved more powerful than all the lobbyists and campaign cash the oil industry could muster."

"This defeat for Big Oil is a huge victory for the health and safety of Americans. It belongs to the indigenous communities who first sounded the alarm on the dangers of tar sands extraction, to the Nebraskan farmers and Texan ranchers who withstood TransCanada's bullying in the name of their land and livelihoods, to the activists from across the country who were arrested on the president's doorstep, and to all of us fighting for a safe climate and justice-fueled future," said Pica.

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