Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline in Victory for Environmental Activists

Barack Obama has rejected a proposal from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline through the American heartland, the Guardian has learned, ending years of uncertainty about the project.


The US president made the announcement from the White House flanked by both secretary of state John Kerry and vice-president Joe Biden, declaring that Keystone “would not serve the national interests of the United States”.

Keystone XL was designed to pump crude from the Alberta tar sands for 1,700 miles and across six states to refineries on the Gulf coast. Over the years, the project has become a symbol of the greater political struggle surrounding Obama’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels and fight climate change.

But Obama said the project was neither “a silver bullet for the economy” nor “an express lane to climate disaster”. It would not meaningfully boost jobs or cut gas prices for US motorists, he said. And in a sweeping statement which became a global call to arms ahead of the UN climate talks starting in Paris later this month, he said it was time to stop using the argument over Keystone as a political cudgel.

 The proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline. Photograph: The Guardian

Highlighting US progress in moving away from reliance on fossil fuels, he promised US global leadership in pursuit of an ambitious framework “to protect the one planet we have got while we still can”.

Earlier this week, TransCanada asked the State Department to put its US permit application on hold, which marked a shift for a firm that had spent seven years relentlessly pushing for approval of the project.

Prospects for Keystone XL have been receding over the last year because of low oil prices, which made the project uneconomical, and amid political shifts in the US and Canada.

Jane Fleming Kleeb, founder of the Bold Nebraska coalition of citizens, farmers and ranchers opposed to the pipeline, told the Guardian: “It’s a long time coming. I feel like, honestly, the boots have beaten the big oil suits for the first time in the country’s history on a big major infrastructure project.

“I’m just proud, I can’t even believe it’s finally happening. The difference this time around was that farmers and ranchers were unified and stood up against the project – that made a huge difference. Something which would normally be decided in the halls of Congress was actually influenced by farmers and ranchers this time around.”

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