WHITE HOUSE —
President Barack Obama has rejected the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project, a plan to build a nearly 1,200-mile oil pipeline to transport Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf states.
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Obama said he agreed with the result of a State Department review that the project “would not serve the national interest of the United States.”
The pipeline project became a centerpiece of the debate over the president’s environmental agenda and stated commitment to take bold action to curb climate change.
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The announcement comes ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change in Paris next month, where Obama is expected to press nations to adopt stronger measures to help slow global warming.
Obama said building the Keystone XL pipeline would not make a “meaningful, long-term contribution” to America’s economy, would not lower gas prices for consumers and would not increase U.S. energy security.
State Dept. review
The project had been under review for years by the State Department, which evaluates proposed projects that straddle the border into the United States, requiring the president's approval.
The White House has been at sharp odds with the Republican-controlled Congress, which backed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing it would create jobs, reduce oil prices and curb America’s dependency on foreign oil.
Republican leaders in Congress reacted strongly and quickly to the announcement. House Speaker Paul Ryan called the move “sickening” and “just wrong.”
American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said the decision will discourage investors in energy infrastructure and American’s looking for good paying jobs. “This is an assault on American workers," said Gerard. "It’s politics at its worst.”
The business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) applauded the decision. In a statement, Executive Director Bob Keefe said the nation can now focus on clean, renewable energy, which he said offers the "real economic opportunity" in America.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, center, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (l) announce new climate legislation, Nov. 4, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Many Democrats, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, applauded the decision.
The president decried what he characterized as the politicization of the Keystone XL project, saying the issue was too often used as a “campaign cudgel” by both parties rather than a serious policy question.
The political wrangling, he said, “obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”
Earlier this week TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL plan, asked the Obama administration to suspend its review of the project. While the White House said it would consider the request to delay its decision, spokesman Josh Earnest suggested there “may be politics at play” behind TransCanada’s request.
The president touted his environmental policies, saying his administration's efforts to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and increase its use of clean energy show the country is a global leader on the environment.
America is “leading by example,” he said, and approving the Keystone XL pipeline “would have undercut this global leadership.”
VOA Congressional Correspondent Cindy Saine and Alberto Pimienta contributed to this report.