White House closes door on cross-border permit for Keystone XL pipeline

White House closes door on cross-border permit for Keystone XL pipeline
Aboriginal leaders from the NWT joined dozens of others in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. in 2011 to protest the Alberta oil sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Dozens of people, including Gitz Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and author Naomi Klein, were arrested.Photo: Shadia Fayne Wood.

Within hours of United States President Barack Obama formally snuffing out the $8-billion proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley had Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the phone.

On Trudeau’s second full day on the job, Obama announced the United States would not grant a cross-border permit for the project, a 1,900-kilometre pipeline that would have delivered bitumen from the oil fields in northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast in part by tapping into existing TransCanada infrastructure south of the border. The president said he agreed with the State Department, which concluded the project would not serve their country’s national interest.

Based on statements issued by Notley and Trudeau, the leaders agree that Alberta and Canada need to focus on “the clean jobs of tomorrow.”

“Canada can be a global source of environmentally responsible energy through better environmental policies, and Alberta will act to help make that happen in partnership with Canada’s new federal government,” Notley said.

“And then we hope that future energy infrastructure projects will be debated on their own merits.”

Opponents of the oil sands gathered in Washington in 2011 to rally against Keystone XL.

Photo: Photo: Christine Irvine.

Opponents of the oil sands gathered in Washington in 2011 to rally against Keystone XL.

Notley said she stressed the importance of the federal government playing its role in the building of infrastructure of national importance. She said Obama’s decision “highlights” the need for Alberta to improve its environmental record and reputation.

“I am disappointed by the way the U.S. government chose to characterize our energy exports,” she said. “Canada currently exports over three million barrels a day to the U.S., and those exports will continue. Our trading relationship with the United States is of fundamental importance to Alberta, and we will work to build on it.”

Trudeau took a broader view, invoking his campaign promise to improve relations with the White House.

“We are disappointed by the decision but respect the right of the United States to make the decision,” he said. “The government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts, and create the clean jobs of tomorrow.”

Obama agreed relations with Canada are about more than oil.

“We both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward,” he said. “And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.”

The leaders will have a chance to chat at the much anticipated United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris at the end of the month.

Pipeline’s projected impact a pipe dream: president

Despite claims the pipeline would have created thousands of jobs in both countries, Obama reasoned Keystone XL would have failed to make a “meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.” He said the project has occupied an “overinflated role” in U.S. political discourse for years, a “campaign cudgel” more than a “serious policy matter.”

“So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it,” he said. “If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would.”

Obama said the project would have undercut America’s role as a global climate change leader.

Republican opponents with the 2016 presidential election in their crosshairs, including the party’s nomination front-runner Donald Trump, roundly criticized Obama’s decision.

“Thousands of jobs, good for the environment, no downside!” the former host of The Apprentice tweeted.

Environmental groups applauded the decision, including Greenpeace, which tweeted it was a huge win for the climate.

“This is a very good day everyone,” tweeted Naomi Klein, who was arrested at protests in Washington in 2011. “A defeat for the Koch Bros, a win for people’s movements.”

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation issued a statement Monday thanking Obama for his leadership.

“President Obama’s rejection of the KXL pipeline sends a clear message to Canada and the rest of the world,” Chief Allan Adam said. “Now is the time to act and not just to talk about climate change.”

He said the ACFN is not against development or economic growth, but that it must not come at the expense of the environment.

“Now more than ever, (the PM) must follow President Obama’s leadership and implement aggressive action to address Indigenous peoples’ rights, shift our economies, and curb our dependency on fossil fuels here in Canada.”

Tories, TransCanada cling to Keystone

Interim federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, herself only a day into her new role, said in a statement Friday she had already urged the prime minister to continue to advocate for market access for the energy sector, including the Keystone XL project.

“The rejection of Keystone will not stop Canadian oil exports to the United States,” she said. “It simply means we will continue to rely on transportation alternatives like shipping and rail (but) the Official Opposition urges the new government to open talks with the U.S. government as soon as possible. The prime minister must continue to voice Canada’s position that this pipeline can create jobs on both sides of the border, and strengthen our economies while being environmentally sustainable.”

TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement the company remains committed to the project, will review Obama’s decision and its rationale, and that submitting a new application for a presidential permit is an option.

“Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science – rhetoric won out over reason,” he said. “It is disappointing the administration appears to have said yes to more oil imports from Iran and Venezuela over oil from Canada, the United States’ strongest ally and trading partner, a country with rule of law and values consistent with the U.S.”

Girling said the State Department’s own data suggests transporting the oil to the Gulf Coast by rail would generate 42 per cent more greenhouse gases than utilizing the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Keystone XL would help replace the higher-risk trucks, trains, barges and tankers currently carrying oil to market, and would provide the U.S. with energy supply security by connecting U.S. and Canadian producers to American refineries with a pipeline running four feet under the ground,” he said. “Keystone XL would put 2,200 skilled Canadians to work almost overnight, with thousands more workers benefiting along the full value chain. We believe KXL is in the best interest of the United States and Canada.”

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