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Obama To Reject Keystone XL Pipeline

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 6/11/2015 Kate Sheppard
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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday will officially reject TransCanada's application to build a massive pipeline to transport oil across the United States-Canada border, The Huffington Post has learned from multiple sources.

After seven years of reviewing the project, Obama is expect to make the announcement from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. His decision will come after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, whose department oversaw the review. 

The president will likely cite concerns over the pipeline's contribution to global warming -- an issue the administration has put at the top of its agenda in Obama's second term -- as the chief reason for blocking the project.

Tensions over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have been high for years, with Obama's environmental base pressuring him to reject the project and Republicans in Congress voting repeatedly to force its approval.

TransCanada submitted its permit application for the 1,600-mile, $7 billion project to the State Department in 2012. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the State Department is responsible for determining whether granting a permit for the pipeline would serve the national interest. 

The pipeline would shuttle up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada's oil sands to U.S. refineries. The southern portion of the pipeline has already been approved and constructed, and is pumping oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, south to Port Arthur, Texas.

The pipeline's contribution to global warming is a main subject of contention for environmental groups, and something the Obama administration has also cited in its consideration. In a major climate address in June 2013, Obama said the pipeline should only be approved if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

Whether it does has been one of the lingering issues for the administration as it evaluated the permit application. The State Department released a final environmental impact analysis in January 2014 that lent support to its approval, concluding that it would not substantially increase emissions.

But environmental advocates argue that construction of the northern portion would facilitate increased production of the oil sands that would not be economical otherwise, and point out that the oil produces substantially higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. And the Environmental Protection Agency also told the State Department that it should re-evaluate those projections in light of current oil price trends.

The Republican-led Congress passed legislation forcing approval of the pipeline in February, which Obama swiftly vetoed, saying it conflicted with "established executive branch procedures" and would cut short "thorough consideration" of its environmental and security implications.

But that consideration has dragged on for years. The administration delayed a decision after the environmental analysis was released, citing the need to wait for a lawsuit over the route through Nebraska to play out. Nebraska's highest court allowed the pipeline route to go forward in January 2015, and the State Department asked other agencies to make their final comments on the pipeline by February. But the administration put off issuing its final decision, leading to months of speculation about when it might come.

The drawn-out Keystone decision has also created tension with Canada, whose prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been a staunch supporter of the project. Harper, a member of the Conservative Party, is up for re-election this October and has said the pipeline "is in the overwhelming interest of Canadians."

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