WASHINGTON- The Obama administration Wednesday rejected a proposal to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. Within minutes, House Republicans announced they will continue to push for the pipeline’s approval as a boost to the U.S. economy.
Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns said there was not enough time to completely assess the project by Feb. 21, the deadline Congress set in December when it passed the temporary payroll tax cut extension.
Without time to conduct a thorough review, the Obama administration said, there is insufficient information to decide whether the project is in national interest.
The Department of State has been reviewing TransCanada’s permit for the pipeline since 2008.
TransCanada can reapply in the next two weeks after adjusting the proposed route through the Nebraska Sand Hills. The Department considers the Sand Hills “sensitive terrain.”
Keystone XL, an oil pipeline that would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Texas, has been at the center of an ongoing debate pitting stimulating the economy against environmental concerns. While some see the pipeline as an opportunity for job creation, many environmentalists say it threatens U.S. lands and waters and diverts attention away from alternative energy research.
In response to the rejection, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced they will continue to push for the pipeline’s construction, and “all options are on the table.”
According to Boehner, the economy is the country’s top issue.. By denying the pipeline, Obama is choosing election-year political strategy over the interest of the people.
“President Obama is destroying tens of thousands of American jobs and shipping energy security to the Chinese,” Boehner said at a news conference. “There’s really no other way to put it. The president is selling out the American jobs for politics.”
Cantor said the Keystone pipeline is a bipartisan project that would boost domestic energy security and put people back to work right away with thousands of new jobs.
“There’s no question that our belief in the president’s policies have consistently failed to create jobs,” Cantor said. “This decision is another wrong move for America and its small businesses that we need so desperately to start creating jobs.”
Republican congressmen have requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testify at a hearing on the issue within the next week.
Wednesday morning, before word of the Obama decision, two leading environmental groups released a report predicting the Keystone pipeline would lead to higher oil prices in the Midwest.
The report, issued by the National Resources Defense Council and Oil Change International, considered TransCanada’s own data stating the U.S. would spend $2 billion to $4 billion more each year on oil as a result of the pipeline.
Spending money on pipelines instead of on alternative energy research would increase U.S. dependence on oil, the report said. By locking into an “oil economy,” the pipeline could also create national security threats.
Anthony Swift of NRDC, co-author of the report, said in a telephone interview that he expected Obama would reject the pipeline. But he was unaware early Wednesday that the announcement was imminent.
“It is a clear indication that the Obama administration has the public interest in mind and is choosing to protect public safety and our water resources over the financial interest of the oil industry,” Swift said. “That’s a pretty significant stand.”
However, the Republicans will continue to support the Keystone pipeline project.
“For the president to say that the Keystone pipeline is not in the interest of our country, I think most Americans are scratching their heads wondering why,” Boehner said.
“This fight is not going to go away. You can count on it.”