Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
President Obama on Wednesday formally rejected a permit application for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, saying that a Republican-mandated deadline to take action on the proposal left his administration with no other choice but to block the $7 billion project that would pump crude oil from the Alberta tar sands all the way to the Gulf Coast.
"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. "I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil."
Republicans, both in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, wasted little time seizing on the decision to renew their criticism of an administration they say is siding with environmentalists to the detriment of the U.S. economy.
"President Obama is destroying tens of thousands of American jobs and shipping American energy security to the Chinese," House Speaker John Boehner said. "The president is selling out American jobs for politics."
The White House, however, is leaving the door open for TransCanada Corp. to reroute its proposed 1,700-mile pipeline and then reapply for the necessary federal approval at a later day, the Washington Post reports.
Under pressure from environmentalists and Nebraska residents and officials, the State Department announced in November that it would look into a new route for the controversial pipeline. At the time, it appeared as though that announcement would punt the politically-charged decision until after the 2012 elections, but pipeline backers in Congress forced the president's hand by inserting a Feb. 21 deadline for a decision in the year-end deal on the payroll tax extension.
For opponents of the pipeline, one of the biggest issues was that the project would have run above the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies a large swath of the Midwest with fresh water for irrigation and drinking. Environmentalists also oppose the pipeline wholesale, noting the impact of tar sands oil on the global climate. Backers of the pipeline, meanwhile, argue that it is necessary to decrease the nation's dependence on Middle East oil and to help spur domestic job creation.