WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Friday blocked the Keystone XL oil pipeline that Canada sought to build into the United States, ruling it would harm the fight against climate change.
The long-awaited decision was a blow to Canada’s new leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and pipeline operator TransCanada warned that it may file an application to renew the project.
But Obama, with one eye on the upcoming global climate change summit in Paris, said Keystone “would not serve the national interests of the United States” and could prove an environmental hazard.
“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fighting climate change,” he said. “Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.”
Trudeau, just two days into the job as Canada’s premier, expressed disappointment at the decision—which cuts off a potential key export route for Canadian oil—but was philosophical.
“The Canada-US relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and cooperation,” he said.
Although the decision was not a surprise, TransCanada’s shares fell sharply and the company quickly vowed to resurrect its bid, implicitly suggesting Obama’s 2017 successor my revive the plan.
“TransCanada and its shippers remain absolutely committed to building this important energy infrastructure project,” chief executive Russ Girling said.
Public opinion has been divided over the project on both sides of the border, and for many, the debate has become a proxy for one on the broader issues of climate change and pollution from Canada’s tar sands.
Girling alleged that “misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science” in rejecting the project, but Obama was able to cite the detailed conclusions of a large-scale US government investigation.
Obama said that—instead of bringing heavy tar sands crude 1,179 miles (1,900 kilometers) from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico—the US should develop clean technologies that would bring jobs and energy security.
At the end of the month, Obama will travel to Paris to help ink a global climate accord aimed at limiting carbon emissions worldwide.
He said he had called Trudeau and both leaders agreed to work together on energy and climate issues.
US Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was less sanguine about the decision.