› Prelude to a Veto?

Keystone Quotes

Over the years, President Obama has become increasingly critical of the Keystone XL pipeline.

After weeks of tense debate and marathon voting sessions, the Senate is expected to pass legislation today approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (and sidestepping the full environmental review process). It’s a bill President Obama has already promised to veto. The controversy over the proposed tar sands oil pipeline has been raging since 2008 (when energy company TransCanada first applied for a presidential permit to build a pipeline that crosses our northern border), but Obama hasn't always been ready to uncap his veto pen. In 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration was “inclined to” approve the pipeline. Since then, the president has become increasingly critical of the project. The following public statements by Obama track his shift out of neutral.

“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. 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.”

—After rejecting TransCanada's application for a presidential permit, January 2012

“I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”

—Speaking about climate change at Georgetown University, January 2013

“It could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

—On The Colbert Report, December 2014

“It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers—it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers...I think there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.”

—From his year-end press conference, December 2014

“21st-century businesses need 21st-century infrastructure—modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains, and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.” 

—From the State of the Union address, January 2015

President Obama has been setting the stage to veto the bill; if he makes good on his promise, the GOP's hopes for building Keystone will remain nothing more than a pipe dream.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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