Energy
2:00 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Keystone Proposal Rejected On Technicality

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 6:27 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The Obama administration announced today that it is rejecting a permit for a controversial pipeline to carry Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Just before Christmas, Congress set a tight deadline for the White House to make its decision. NPR correspondent Elizabeth Shogren joins us to explain why this won't be the last that we hear of the Keystone XL pipeline. Elizabeth, why did the Obama administration reject the permit?

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: Well, President Obama said in a statement that the rushed and arbitrary deadline set by Congress didn't give his administration any other choice. This is a $7 billion project that's been years in the making and there was a hitch last year when Nebraska said it didn't want the pipeline to go through an important aquifer. The company agreed to find another route through that state and it hasn't done that yet, so the administration can't finish its review of the project.

If the administration had approved the permit in its unfinished state, the decision would have been vulnerable to legal challenges.

SIEGEL: So if today's announcement by the Obama administration is rejecting the pipeline more on procedural than substantive grounds, that would not be the kind of firm ideological rejection that, say, the environmental movement was hoping for.

SHOGREN: That's right. The administration said they weren't rejecting the permit on its merits. The State Department said the Canadian company can reapply or other companies can apply for a pipeline. TransCanada has been saying that it is - TransCanada is the company that's behind this pipeline - they've been saying it's very committed to this project. They've sunk a lot of money into it and I can't imagine that they're going to be easily deterred.

The company wasn't ready to go ahead with the project now anyways since it's still looking for a route through Nebraska and it doesn't expect to have that new route until the fall.

SIEGEL: How might this decision affect the president politically?

SHOGREN: Well, it's a mixed bag. Environmentalists were elated. They felt that the president hasn't done enough for them on global warming and this is a big - they consider it a huge gift for them. On the other hand, labor unions are furious, some at least, because they thought that this project did include the prospect for lots of jobs, especially for laborers and construction workers and so they're disappointed and they call it a job killer.

SIEGEL: And the reaction from the oil industry?

SHOGREN: Well, even before the announcement officially came out, representatives from the oil industry were bashing the president, saying that he was chasing away jobs and chasing away a massive investment in the economy at a time when we need it so badly. The industry also says that this will stand in the way of America weaning itself from imports of oil from unfriendly and unstable countries.

SIEGEL: So the president has announced that unable to make a decision within the timeframe imposed by Congress, he must reject a permit now for the pipeline. What is likely to happen next?

SHOGREN: Well, congressional Republicans are meeting to come up with their strategy. They say they're going to keep pushing for this pipeline to become a reality and to try to make it - try to fast-track it anyway they can. And they're also surely going to continue to use this issue as a way to attack the president for not doing enough to create jobs in the country.

SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, Elizabeth. That's NPR correspondent Elizabeth Shogren. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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