President Obama announced Wednesday that he will deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, blaming Republicans for imposing a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” which he said did not give officials enough time.
GOP lawmakers immediately excoriated the president for the decision. House Speaker John Boehner said Obama is “selling out American jobs for politics,” and said Republicans in Congress would continue to push for the pipeline.
The decision does not necessarily kill the project. The State Department said the denial “does not preclude any subsequent permit application” — and within hours pipeline company TransCanada announced that it would reapply for a permit.
But the decision at least delays the project, one that unions and GOP lawmakers alike said would be a boon for job creation as well as energy security.
“Until this pipeline is constructed, the U.S. will continue to import millions of barrels of conflict oil from the Middle East and Venezuela and other foreign countries,” TransCanada said in a statement Wednesday, saying it is “disappointed” by the administration’s call. “Thousands of jobs continue to hang in the balance if this project does not go forward.”
Obama administration officials and congressional Republicans were pointing the finger squarely at each other over the decision.
The White House claimed Republicans’ decision to attach a pipeline provision to the short-term payroll tax cut extension last year scuttled the project — that provision compelled the Obama administration to make a decision on the pipeline in two months.
Obama, in a written statement, said that deadline “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact.”
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”
The State Department made the initial recommendation to Obama on the grounds that there wasn’t enough time to review. Obama agreed with that recommendation. According to the White House, Obama called Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to “personally convey” that decision.
But Republicans accused Obama of playing politics and expressed concern that the decision would kill jobs — 20,000 of them, according to House Republican Leader Eric Cantor.
“The president has showed through his actions that those actions do not match that rhetoric, and by deciding to block the development of the Keystone pipeline, he has essentially decided to block the creation of 20,000 new jobs,” Cantor said Wednesday.