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President Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Pipes for TransCanada's planned Keystone XL pipeline are stored in Gascoyne, N.D. President Obama vetoed Congress' approval of the project in February.
Andrew Cullen Reuters/Landov
Pipes for TransCanada's planned Keystone XL pipeline are stored in Gascoyne, N.D. President Obama vetoed Congress' approval of the project in February.

Ending a process that has lingered for much of his time in the Oval Office, President Obama has announced that the U.S. has rejected TransCanada's application for a permit to complete the Keystone XL pipeline.

The president said that "after extensive public outreach" and consultations, the State Department determined that the proposal "would not serve the national interests of the United States." He added, "I agree with that decision."

Back in February, Obama vetoed congressional legislation that approved the project. The Senate failed to override that veto in March. The first application for approval of TransCanada's plan was filed in September of 2008.

We've updated this post with news from the event.

Obama made the announcement in the White House's Roosevelt Room, alongside both Secretary of State John Kerry, whose agency has been conducting a review of the project for more than seven years, and Vice President Joe Biden. The statement came shortly after Obama and Kerry met privately Friday morning.

In rejecting the proposal today, President Obama said that the Keystone debate has played an "overinflated role in our political discourse" — something for which he blamed both parties.

Reacting to the news, Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh called Obama's rejection of the permit "a courageous leap forward in the climate fight."

She added that the pipeline extension "would have locked in, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels on the planet – posing a serious threat to our air, land water, and climate."

Bill McKibben, co-founder of the group, said the move gives Obama "new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight."

McKibben added: "We're still awfully sad about Keystone south and are well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration."

On Tuesday, TransCanada asked the State Department to suspend its review of its permit application, citing ongoing debate over its route in Nebraska. Plans for the pipeline had called for it to stretch from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of miles of the projected route have already been completed.

As NPR's Jeff Brady reported this week, the Keystone project became a target for activists and others who want new energy policies to focus on renewable energy, instead of on fossil fuels.

Jeff added, "A big reason environmentalists don't like the Keystone XL is because of the oil it would transport. Much of it would come from Alberta's oil sands, which have to be mined. Then the gunky mixture has to be processed before it's usable. That emits more pollution than traditional methods of oil production."

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