Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Project, Citing U.S. Climate Leadership

What was the basis for Obama's rejection of the pipeline legislation?

President Obama announced on Friday, November 6th that his administration would not be issuing the permit for the Keystone Pipeline. This settles, at least in the present, a controversial issue that has dogged his presidency. While Obama stated in his final decision that the pipeline would have undermined the U.S. effort to curb greenhouse gases, and in so doing delighted environmentalists, his opponents remain disappointed and angered.

Those who favored the project feel strongly that the XL Pipeline would have secured a supply of oil from a U.S. ally and created a multitude of jobs, strengthening the economy. Those who agree with President Obama's decision, however, feel certain that constructing the pipeline would only have exacerbated climate change, increasing pollution along its path and releasing enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Although the State Department, the portion of the government that controls permits for projects that cross international borders, had concluded that whether the pipeline was constructed or not would have little effect on global carbon output or the gasoline prices in the United States, a great many people, including the president and the Democrats running to replace him when he leaves office, remained skeptical.

The president affirmed this week, with the backing of a great many supporters from the Democratic members of the legislature, and many top Democratic donors, that the decision to defeat the pipeline is important on a global level.

Secretary of State Kerry asserts that not only will President Obama's decision help to protect the planet from further damage, but that it will help with achieving worldwide compliance with efforts to save the environment. According to Kerry, and to the president, the U.S. cannot be successful in asking other countries to make sacrifices in order to save the earth if the U.S. is not able to do so.

The TransCanada pipeline proposal, filed in 2008, originally was opposed on a relatively small scale, at first by the Natural Resources Defense Council. By 2010, however, the Environmental Protection Agency had challenged that State

Department's positive analysis of the project. A year later, a grass-roots organization, 350.org, organized an expansive White House protest at which over 1200 people were arrested.

The opposition to the pipeline project eventually spread to the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club. Though there is now much support for Obama's decision, particularly from the Democratic Party, there is still vocal and forceful opposition of his decision as a "job killer."

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