Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline in Win for Environmentalists

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg News

President Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.’s bid to build the Keystone XL pipeline, ending seven years of debate over an infrastructure project that swelled into one of the most contentious environmental issues of his presidency.

A lengthy review by the State Department concluded that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest of the United States,” Obama said Nov. 6 at the White House. “I agree with that decision.”

Obama said the project wouldn’t make a meaningful contribution to the U.S. economy, lower gasoline prices or enhance the nation’s energy security. It also would have undercut U.S. global leadership on climate change, he said.

The rejection is a victory for environmental advocates, who sought to couple the 1,179-mile pipeline with Obama’s campaign to combat global warming. Backers said Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs, increase U.S. energy security and help an important ally in Canada develop its energy resources.

The decision comes just a month before world leaders from roughly 190 countries are scheduled to gather in Paris for United Nations-sponsored climate talks, where they hope to forge an international agreement to limit global warming through new environmental standards.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben, an early organizer of opposition to the pipeline, said the decision gives Obama “new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight.”

McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, said that environmental activists “are well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration.”

Spokesmen for TransCanada didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The proposed cross-border pipeline, which would have carried Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries near the Gulf of Mexico, spawned a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign by both sides. The drawn-out process also soured diplomatic relations between Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Obama administration. The incoming Liberal government, led by Justin Trudeau, is much less wedded to the project and to Alberta oil more generally.

Obama said he spoke to Trudeau before making the announcement.