President Barack Obama today agreed with a U.S. State Department recommendation not to fast track the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would move tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. That decision predictably drew mixed reviews from Colorado’s congressional delegation and praise from the state’s conservation community.
“With a route that would have sliced through Nebraska’s Sandhills and endangered the Ogallala aquifer, I have had serious concerns about the proposed pipeline since the application was first filed,” Colorado U.S. Representative Diana DeGette said in a press release.
“By not allowing the State Department to complete the project’s necessary environmental review, congressional Republicans chose political games over a measured and informed discussion about the potential impacts of this project,” added the Denver Democrat. “A pipeline of this size and length involves significant environmental risks, and I applaud the decision to deny the initial application.”
Republicans included an accelerated timeline for the pipeline decision in a contentious deal to extend payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits in December. That move came after Obama pushed back a final decision until 2013 to allow for full environmental review and exploration of alternative routes that would not impact the sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska. Preliminary routes for the pipeline included one alternative through northeastern Colorado.
Colorado U.S. Representative Mike Coffman said the project would bring “tens of thousands of jobs” to the United States.
“This decision [not to meet the GOP deadline in February] is not based on the jobs and the energy that our country so desperately needs, but solely on a political calculation that [Obama] can’t afford to offend his radical environmental base for his re-election,” Coffman said in a prepared statement.
However, TransCanada, the Canadian company proposing the pipeline, has said the project will produce thousands of temporary jobs but only hundreds of permanent jobs in the United States.
Oil pipeline safety has been a huge concern in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountain West since last summer’s ExxonMobil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana and a spill in a tributary of the Platte River in Commerce City north of Denver. That spill occurred at the Suncor Refinery that refines some of the tar sands oil produced in Canada.
Environmentalists say tar sands oil is one of the most carbon-intensive forms of fossil fuel production.
“Stopping Keystone is not just good for the environment, it’s good for civilization,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action in Fort Collins. “Climate change is real, and tar sands would make it much worse.”
Obama said his administration has steadily increased domestic oil and gas production, and he added that he’s disappointed Republicans politicized the Keystone XL process.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said in a prepared statement.
“I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”
U.S. House Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, blasted Obama: “Examples have been shown that the energy supply will go elsewhere and the jobs connected with this project will go elsewhere. Either we are going to get serious about the number one issue, which is creation of jobs, or not.”