WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that promised 1,200 construction jobs for Oklahoma, but President Barack Obama said he would look at ways to develop an oil pipeline from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.
The administration's decision on the pipeline came well ahead of the Feb. 21 deadline given by Congress last month.
The president wanted to delay a decision until early next year, but Congress — led by Republicans who support the pipeline — forced his hand with a provision in the bill that temporarily extended the payroll tax cut.
The decision announced Wednesday that the pipeline is not in the national interest doesn't prevent TransCanada, which proposed the pipeline, from reapplying once an alternate route is found through Nebraska.
The administration said in November that public concerns about the passage of the pipeline through the ecologically sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska prompted the delay.
Because the 1,700-mile pipeline would cross the Canadian border into the United States, the State Department had the permitting authority. The department recommended Wednesday that the permit not be approved, and Obama agreed.
“As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline's impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” the president said.
“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.”
Company will reapply
In a statement, TransCanada said it would reapply for a permit for the pipeline, which would carry crude from the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada, through Oklahoma, to the Texas Gulf Coast.
“This outcome is one of the scenarios we anticipated,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer.
“While we are disappointed, TransCanada remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL. Plans are already under way on a number of fronts to largely maintain the construction schedule of the project. We will reapply for a presidential permit and expect a new application would be processed in an expedited manner to allow for an in-service date of late 2014.”
The company, which has estimated the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs just for the construction, said it would work with Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality to determine a route that avoids the Sandhills, a process that could be completed this fall.