Obama Rejects the Keystone XL Pipeline and Protects America's National Interest

The Obama Administration has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil. This decision puts the health and safety of the American people above the interests of Big Oil. And it confirms President Obama’s commitment to combating the threats of climate change, air pollution, and oil addiction.

President Obama’s decision represents a victory of truth over misinformation. Here in the United States, oil companies trumpet false job claims and promise a secure supply of oil. But in the Canadian press, oil companies talk freely about using the pipeline to export oil to Asian markets and charge more money for the oil they do sell in the U.S.

The facts reveal this pipeline was never in America’s national interest. It would have endangered our people, our air, our water, and our lands for the benefit of oil companies. The Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for all the right reasons.

This project would have endangered American communities. It would have cut through six states, across hundreds of miles of crop and rangeland, and over the Ogallala Aquifer—the source of fresh water for millions of Americans. Pipeline safety regulators have admitted they cannot guarantee current standards are strong enough to ensure tar sands pipelines can be built and operated safely.

Tar sands oil is highly corrosive, and pipelines that carry it have proven more prone to spills than those for conventional crude. One tar sands pipeline operated by the same company behind the Keystone XL project experienced 35 leaks in the U.S. and Canada its first year of operation and had to be temporarily shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Building and operating this risky project would have created few Americans jobs. Supporters like to say the pipeline could generate “tens of thousands” of jobs. But representatives of TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, said in sworn testimony the project will only generate “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The State Department thinks the number of permanent jobs is closer to 20.

The State Department also estimated the pipeline would create between 5,000 and 6,000 temporary construction jobs. That’s a typical amount for a major construction project, but it is not a national jobs plan.

Claims that the pipeline would have delivered a secure supply of oil to America were also wildly overblown. The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an export pipeline. By rerouting tar sands oil out of the Midwest and into the “Foreign Trade Zone” in Port Arthur, Texas, companies could ship it anywhere in the world. Indeed, companies get incentives to export from there.

In Congressional testimony, TransCanada refused to support a condition that the oil in Keystone XL would be used in the United States. Meanwhile, by diverting Canadian oil that would otherwise go to the Midwest, TransCanada has admitted the pipeline would increase the price Americans pay for Canadian oil by $3.9 billion.

This project wouldn’t have delivered lower gas prices or good jobs, but it would have helped accelerate climate change. Extracting tar sands oil produces three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude.

Last year, America experienced 14 disastrous weather events that created over a billion dollars in damages each—and all-time record. Scientists have already linked extreme weather to climate change and say more devastating events are headed our way. We can no longer ignore the enormous cost of burning dirty fuels like tar sands oil.

By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama is helping move America down a cleaner, safer path.

He is also listening to the public outcry over this project.  From farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to more than 10,000 people who gathered at the White House this fall, Americans have registered their opposition to Keystone XL. Today’s decision shows President Obama heard our voices over the din of industry’s PR campaign.

The oil industry’s allies in Congress will no doubt continue to lobby for this project. But NRDC will continue to fight back, because we know the White House has made the right decision for America today and we know that no version of the Keystone XL pipeline will serve our national interest.

About the Authors

Frances Beinecke

Former President

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