President Obama has put his foot down on a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline stretching from Canada to the Gulf Coast, rejecting the plan much to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers.
The administration has come under immense scrutiny from protesters who have warned the administration that the Keystone XL pipeline, in its proposed form, would be catastrophic to the environment. A series of rallies were held outside of the White House throughout 2011, bringing thousands to Washington and yielding dozens of arrests.
President Obama had previously said he would not make a decision on offering a permit to the project’s planners, TransCanada Corp., until after the 2012 election. Congress, however, informed the White House last month that they would only allow 60 days for the president to offer a decision on their application. On Wednesday, the State Department confirmed that the administration has rejected the proposal, and TransCanada will have to go back to the drawing board if they want to draft a plan that the president might seem more appropriate.
To many Republicans in Congress, the president just missed his chance at something major.
Addressing the decision Wednesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner said that not only would Obama’s decision keep the country from creating thousands of new jobs, but would allow other nations to capitalize on America’s failure to follow through. Under the proposed plan, the massive pipeline would carry oil from the Canadian Tar Sands region into the US for processing. If America drops the ball, said Boehner, others will pick up the slack and only strengthen their own economies will the United States’ continues to suffer.
“The Canadians are in conversations with the Chinese, and if we don’t build this pipeline to bring that Canadian oil and pick up the North Dakota oil and deliver it to our refineries in the Gulf Coast, that oil is gonna get shipped out to the Pacific Ocean and will be sold to the Chinese,” said Speaker Boehner.
The House speaker added that that was only one of the problems that will be poised on America by the Obama administration’s decision. As an unemployment epidemic continues to plague the country — and has done so since the end of George W Bush’s tenure as president — Republicans have largely insisted that the cost to the United States’ ecosystems would be minor compared to the number of jobs the pipeline would bring.
“This is not good for our country,” continued Boehner. “The president wants to put this off until it’s convenient for him to make a decision. That means after the next election. The fact is the American people are asking the question right now: Where are the jobs? The president’s got an opportunity to create 100,000 new jobs almost immediately. The president should say yes.”
“The issue of job creation in our country is critically important, and we’re going to continue to focus on it every single day that we’re here in Washington representing the interests of the American people,” added Boehner. This decision, said the speaker, falls in line with other Obama administration policies that “have made the economy worse and have made it more difficult for small businesses to create jobs.”
The pipeline’s planners can propose another route that would not be as environmentally detrimental, but some supporters of the now-nixed plan have their doubts that anything involving America will come to fruition.
"Mr. President, don't put a cork in our economy. Let's get this pipeline built,” urged Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) also called the move from the White House “the wrong decision at the wrong time,” and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) labeled it as another “poor” decision from the president.
To some, however, it is the best move the Obama administration has offered in a while.
“Assuming that what we're hearing is true, this isn't just the right call, it's the brave call,” environmentalist Bill McKibben writes in a statement Wednesday. “The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he's too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact 'huge political consequences,' he's stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money.”
McKibben added that the fossil fuel lobby “won’t give up easily,” but in the meantime, environmentalists are calling the decision a step in the right direction. Wendy Abrams, a backer of Obama in 2008, tells Bloomberg News that “it’s going to be tough” on Obama now that Republicans will turn the issue to jobs, but it proves to those concerned over corporate sway that the president is not “in the pocket of Big Oil.”