Obama blocks Keystone pipeline, ending debate for rest of term

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
In Friday’s press conference, Obama sought to downplay the importance of the pipeline, saying it played an “overinflated role in our political discourse.”

WASHINGTON — As his term enters its final year, President Barack Obama put to rest what is perhaps his most enduring political albatross: the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline.

With little advance warning or fanfare, Obama — flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry — announced the United States will officially reject the proposed pipeline that would carry vast quantities of crude oil from Canada through the American heartland to refineries in Nebraska, Illinois, and elsewhere. The 1,179-mile pipeline, Obama said, “would not serve the national interests of the United States.”

The pipeline has weighed on Obama for virtually his entire presidency: under federal review since 2008, the fate of Keystone has taken numerous twists and turns as Obama has sought to keep the powerful political forces at odds over the project at bay.

Republicans and the oil and gas industry had strongly backed Keystone from the get-go, claiming it would create jobs, lower the price of gas, and bolster American energy security. Democrats — fueled by a vocal grassroots backlash against the project — have questioned how many jobs the pipeline would create, while arguing it would have grave effects on the climate.

Keystone was a major issue in the 2012 elections, when Republicans used it to attack Obama’s record on the economy. On several occasions, congressional Republicans have tried to pass bills approving the pipeline; such an effort was met with Obama’s veto pen earlier this year. And, more often than not, Keystone was deployed as a litmus test for both sides to assess where their candidates stood on the economy and climate — and a weapon to bludgeon them if they didn’t take a position.

In Friday’s press conference, Obama sought to downplay the importance of the  pipeline, saying it played an “overinflated role in our political discourse.” Keystone, he said, is “neither a silver bullet for the economy nor an express lane to climate disaster.” Indeed, a State Department report found that the pipeline would support 42,000 temporary jobs but only create 35 permanent ones, and numerous experts have observed that Canadian oil has many other methods of getting to market in the absence of Keystone.

Congress reacts predictably

But in Congress, the day’s news was an opportunity to revisit the past eight years’ talking points. Minnesota’s members of Congress reacted predictably, with Republicans taking the White House to task and some Democrats — but not all — applauding the news.

Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen said in a statement he was “disappointed that a project that would support thousands of U.S. jobs, increase safety for Minnesota communities, and add billions of dollars to the American economy will be blocked,” adding it fell victim to “politics as usual in Washington.”

Second District Rep. John Kline echoed Paulsen’s disappointment, adding that the pipeline would have “free[d] up transportation infrastructure in Minnesota, opening our rails to ship other products and crops produced in our great state.”

Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer had perhaps the strongest words on Friday. In a statement, Emmer argued Obama sided with special interests over the will of American people, the Canadian government, and Congress. “The Keystone XL pipeline would be a safe and efficient means of transporting up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the United States daily…This decision puts American industry and consumers at a competitive disadvantage and the President knows it.”

For progressive Democrats like Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison, Obama’s decision is “great news for our climate, which means it’s great news for all Americans.”

“The pipeline would have endangered our land and water, and the fuel flowing through it would have been a major contributor to climate change,” Ellison said in a statement. “Rejecting Keystone is a step toward a safer planet for us today and a safer planet for our kids tomorrow.”

Ellison’s Progressive Caucus colleague, Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan, took a different view of Obama’s announcement. In a statement, he said he was “disappointed in today’s announcement… The bipartisan, compromise legislation passed by the Congress earlier this year would have put an end to almost seven years of gridlock, [and] required Keystone to comply with tough U.S. environmental protections.”

Nolan, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the current oil transportation infrastructure is harmful and dangerous. “We’ve got to find a safer way — and more environmentally friendly — way to transport this oil. And in my judgment, and in the judgment of many, pipelines made with American iron ore and steel are the best way to do it,” he said.

In a short statement, Sen. Al Franken didn’t exactly cheer the decision, saying that he would respects the government’s review process, though he added that took too long. “Since that process determined that the project is not in the national interest, I agree that it should not move forward,” he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar suggested in a statement that it was time to move on: “Now that the administration has made a decision, it is time for Congress and the administration to focus on making long-term investments in American infrastructure and saving energy costs by passing both the pending energy bill and the Senate-passed infrastructure bill.”

Friday’s announcement effectively puts Keystone to bed for the rest of the Obama presidency, but if a Republican wins the White House next year the Canadian oil company TransCanada can apply again to build Keystone.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 11/06/2015 - 04:40 pm.

    We want to sell our oil reserves to pay for more spending by DC elites, yet we won’t put in a pipeline (safest way to transport oil, even Dems agree on this) for fear of upsetting the Greenies. What a wimpy decision to make! Forget the fact it would employ many (you can argue how many), forget that the same oil will be transported by rail & truck, forget the majority of Americans are for it, just remember the decision was a political one that panders to the liberal far left environmentalists. Sad state of affairs for us all.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/07/2015 - 12:16 am.


    The oil will still be be transported by Target Field so we can reminded daily just why Keystone was such a bad idea.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 11/07/2015 - 09:06 am.

    Novice representative Emmer’s

    response is typical of a newcomer and of one who is attempting to establish some sense of notice in an overcrowded field of wannabes.

  4. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/07/2015 - 09:29 am.

    The Canadian tar sands oil sludge that would be the primary contents of Keystone is not meant to be sold as fuel in the United States; it will be exported to other nations. So, there is no net benefit for this country except the 35–count’em! 35–permanent jobs the pipeline would generate. That is just not worth the risk of polluting the biggest aquifer in the country, the Ogalala, in case of a spill.

    Canada had options: they could have gone to their own west coast ports with a pipeline across their own country. That would be too dangerous! Our president made a prudent and necessary decision on this controversial pipeline.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/07/2015 - 11:45 pm.

      Thankfully, the project was rejected

      Only 35 permanent jobs to move millions of gallons of oil through the country while incredible to comprehend, certainly doesn’t help a nation seeking to employ more citizens. Better to keep hundreds (probably thousands) of people employed moving the oil by rail. Sounds like government rationale.

  5. Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 11/07/2015 - 11:02 am.

    Solid reasons why the Keystone Pipeline never took off

    Facts remain very elusive & problematic for REPs, et al, who let’s face it side with the large companies & corporations in their quest for ever-higher profits for the CEOs & shareholders. That is their sole & collective reason for doing anything.

    The extraction process is very dirty & uses a lot of water, which is becoming a scarcity. The RRs that carry this potentially explosive bituminous are miles long now & run thru our communities at high speeds. For all of that risk, this product ultimately ends up being sold to foreign countries. When there are derailments & explosions the RRS & oil companies expect the tax payers to cover those extensive losses. The adverse effects on the environment–lands & wildlife–are also severe & long-lasting.

    The companies spend more on lobbying than it would cost to invest in far safer cars that wouldn’t derail or explode. They can well afford to vastly improve the way they operate; they invested over $13B in their infrastructure just last year, and plan to invest more. Their ultimate goal is to criss-cross the entire country with noisy trains that rumble & roar & make homes vibrate. I haven’t had a solid nights sleep in years:(

    While putting new pipes in the ground would provide more jobs for a while, once that is done only about 30+ jobs would be permanent.

    The RRs have enjoyed almost total autonomy since they came into existence back in the 1800s. They like being able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, without any interference.

    The oil companies STILL receive federal subsidies, despite many, many years of enormous profits. The Koch Bros own at least part of TransCanada now. They all know the fossil fuel free ride they’ve been on is ending. That is why they are so desperate to squeeze out every drop now, while they can. And even tho cleaner, smarter & far more sustainable options exist & are being used successfully by other countries.

    If the Keystone Pipeline had ever been a good idea, it would have been approved years ago. I understand that change is hard for a lot of folks. They like to cling tightly to what they know & are used to. But continued used of fossil fuels is making climate change occur more quickly, and time is not on our side. If we do not change our ways NOW, the future looks very, very grim for our children & grandchildren, and for the planet:( That is irrefutable to all of us who have read the science and learned the FACTS.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 11/08/2015 - 01:57 am.

      The infrastructure, that the liberals constantly hit on as an economy starter, has the same impact as Keystone pipeline. Just like fixing roads and bridges, putting in the pipeline is labor intensive to get it going and not a permanent job producer after it is done. All I hear from liberals is infrastructure jobs will save our economy, once a road is laid down the jobs stop. Just like once the pipeline is laid jobs most jobs will stop. That doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. Employing thousands while it being built is good for American workers no matter what the liberal left says.
      Sadly those so dead set against oil will never understand that whether we approve Keystone or not that oil is going to be refined and used. We as Americans should be beniftting from it but the Greenies pushed Obama into making an unpopular political decision to appease his far left base. No guts involved in this decision.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/08/2015 - 05:56 pm.


        We agree pipe lines are better than rail cars, all our natural gas is piped around. The interesting point was made a couple of posts earlier. Apparently (I am not the expert) the pipe line was going to travel through the Ogallala Aquifer region. This specif Aquifer per “Wiki” supports crop irrigation for ~ 27% of the irrigated land in America. There is some risk, how much, I don’t know, that contaminating that aquifer could be quite a problem. Tough decision in either direction.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/09/2015 - 09:16 am.

        “[O]nce a road is laid down the jobs stop.”

        So there is only one road that needs building/repairing/upgrading? And once that is done, it never needs to be touched again? I had no idea.

        The pipeline is a bad idea for reasons other than the fact that it will create a minimal number of jobs. Let’s start with the fact that it would be used to transport dirty, high carbon fuel across a sensitive aquifer. Let’s continue with the fact that the locals (remember how they were supposed to have a voice in things?) were vehemently opposed. We’ll touch lightly on the fact that it was to be built across the US because the Canadians do not wan the oil transported over their own country, and then conclude with a note that the impact of the pipeline on the US energy supply would have been negligible, at best.

        Now, we can consider the minimal positive economic impact. Tell me again how “we Americans” were going to benefit from this boondoggle.

  6. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 11/08/2015 - 01:51 pm.

    Just say no, again please…

    …and may Obama approach Bibi Net… with the same firm “No” when he comes calling for more billions for Israel; military hardware to protect themselves…from themselves?

  7. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 11/09/2015 - 03:49 pm.

    “Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan, took a different view…”

    Well, of course he did. Polymet is in his district which he supports despite significant environmental risk to provide jobs for the unions that elected him.

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