Lucia Graves and Joshua Hersh, HuffPost, 01-18-2012
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Wednesday recommended that President Obama deny a permit for the Keystone XL, arguing the pipeline does not serve the national interest.
“The President concurred with the Department’s recommendation, which was predicated on the fact that the Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest,” the State Department wrote in a statement to the media on Wednesday afternoon.
The news comes after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that Obama cannot approve the pipeline by the Feb. 21 deadline imposed by Congress.
It also comes after House and Senate lawmakers signaled they would introduce new legislation pushing the permit forward even if the Obama administration rejected the pipeline proposal. That bill, drafted by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), would have shut the White House out of the Keystone decision-making process, leaving Congress with full authority to approve the pipeline, which would stretch an estimated 1,700 miles from tar sands in Canada to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.
The State Department has been charged with granting a permit for the project because the pipeline would cross an international border. Rejecting that permit might prevent the project from moving forward as conceived, but sources familiar with the process tell The Huffington Post that TransCanada, an energy infrastructure company, should be able to build a southern portion of the pipeline — between Oklahoma and Texas — without further approvals. TransCanada can also re-apply for the border crossing at any time, the sources said.
Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org who spearheaded the movement against the pipeline, reacted to the news in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
Assuming that what we’re hearing is true, this isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money.We’re well aware that the fossil fuel lobby won’t give up easily. They have control of Congress. But as the year goes on, we’ll try to break some of that hammerlock, both so that environmental review can go forward, and so that we can stop wasting taxpayer money on subsidies and handouts to the industry. The action starts mid-day Tuesday on Capitol Hill, when 500 referees will blow the whistle on Big Oil’s attempts to corrupt the Congress.
For their part, pipeline advocates were quick to condemn the administration for its actions, accusing the president of trying to drum up support from environmentalists in an election year.
“Blocking the Keystone pipeline would be an enormous mistake by the Obama administration,” said H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. “We need the oil and we need the jobs it would bring. This is as ‘shovel ready’ as anything Obama has proposed, yet because his radical environmental constituency objects, he’s apparently halting the pipeline. He simply needs their support too much in an election year.”
Conservative think tank American Action Forum chimed in, calling the president’s decision “a disaster for major energy infrastructure investments” and blasting out a list of grievances that ranged from the argument that the decision would stifle job creation in the Midwest to claims that it would help China “assume a major position” in North American oil.
Carney, the White House spokesman, declined on Wednesday to address the reports that a decision had been made, but emphasized for the second day in a row that the administration believed Congress had forced the State Department into an untenable decision by demanding a decision on the pipeline permit by Feb. 21.
“The Republicans put in jeopardy a process that should be immune from politics, should be conducted on the basis of pragmatic and considered analysis, and tried to hijack it,” Carney said at his daily press briefing.
Carney added that the administration was particularly concerned that under that law, a decision about an alternative route through Nebraska, which many environmental groups and other stakeholders had called for, would have to be made in an “arbitrary fashion.” The Huffington Post has previously reported that the State Department repeatedly rejected efforts by other government agencies to compel it to evaluate alternative routes through Nebraska, long before the most recent uproar.
HuffPost has compiled the best reactions from Twitter below.
This is a developing story. More information to come.