Obama rejects Keystone XL permit

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January 18th, 2012

Omaha, NE – President Barack Obama has denied TransCanada’s application to build an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline generated several protests, particularly in Nebraska where it was planned to cross the Ogallala Aquifer. (Photo credit Nebraska Watchdog)

In a statement released today, the State Department said it needed more time to assess whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.

The department cited Congress’ 60-day deadline that was passed in December, embedded within legislation to extend the payroll tax cut. The deadline was pushed by House and Senate Republicans, who said the pipeline will bring thousands of much-needed jobs and should be approved quickly.

The White House released a statement following the State Department’s, blaming Congressional Republicans for a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” that “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact.”

The State Department had initially intended to decide whether or not to approve the pipeline by the end of last year. But in November, it delayed its decision following a series of protests by those opposed to the pipeline, in particular, those with concerns over the pipeline’s route. Keystone was initially planned to cross the fragile Ogallala Aquifer in the Nebraska Sandhills, which supplies water to Nebraska and several other states.

TransCanada agreed to review an alternate route that would avoid the Nebraska Sandhills. And the State Department said that review would stretch into 2013.

The Department left the door open for TransCanada to re-apply for a permit, once it’s decided on a new route, saying the decision to deny “does not preclude any subsequent permit application or applications for similar projects.”

Reaction has been swift on both sides of the debate.

BOLD Nebraska, a vocal critic of the pipeline, called the President’s decision “bold” and said it would be “celebrated for generations to come in our state.” In a statement, Jane Kleeb, the director of the group, said “The next time an oil company thinks they can bully their way through towns threatening landowners I am quite certain they will remember one word, Nebraska.”

Republicans quickly denounced the decision. Before the announcement was official, House Speaker John Boehner told Politico the President is “selling out American jobs for politics.”

In a statement from Nebraska’s Republican Senator Mike Johanns’ office, Johanns said there is “no legitimate justification for the delay,” and that the President’s decision “reeks of political gamesmanship.”

Nebraska’s Democratic Senator Ben Nelson said in his response that the decision allows the project to proceed in a “responsible manner.” Referring to the insertion of a 60-day deadline into the payroll tax cut legislation, Nelson said he predicted this would happen if “Congress intervened for political purposes…by setting an arbitrary deadline.”

Nelson also tossed blame back at the state of Nebraska, saying the situation could have been avoided if the state had worked “proactively with TransCanada years ago” to develop a viable route.

Stay tuned to KVNO News for more on this developing story.

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