Environmental activists praised the decision.
President Barack Obama on Friday rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported oil across the United States-Canada border.
After seven years of reviewing the project, Obama announced his final decision from the Roosevelt Room in the White House.
“The State Department has decided the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States — I agree with that decision.”
His rejection came after meeting earlier Friday with Secretary of State John Kerry, whose department oversaw the review.
Taking a jab at the politicization of the pipeline, Obama said it had become “overinflated” in public discourse.
“Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security,” Obama said.
Tensions over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have been high for years, with Obama’s environmental base pressuring him to reject the project and Republicans in Congress voting repeatedly to force its approval.
TransCanada submitted its permit application for the 1,600-mile, $7 billion project to the State Department in 2008. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the State Department is responsible for determining whether granting a permit for the project would serve the national interest.
The pipeline would have shuttled up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries. The southern portion of the pipeline has already been approved and constructed, and is pumping oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, south to Port Arthur, Texas.
The pipeline’s contribution to global warming is a main subject of contention for environmental groups and something the Obama administration has also cited in its consideration. In a major climate address in June 2013, Obama said the pipeline should only be approved if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
Whether it does has been one of the lingering issues for the administration as it evaluated the permit application. The State Department released a final environmental impact analysis in January 2014 that lent support to the pipeline’s approval, concluding that it would not substantially increase emissions.
But environmental advocates argued that construction of the northern portion would facilitate increased production in the oil sands that would not be economical otherwise and pointed out that the oil produces substantially higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. And the Environmental Protection Agency also told the State Department that it should re-evaluate those projections in light of current oil price trends.
Green groups praised the president’s decision on Friday, calling it a “day of celebration.”
“President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate,” said Bill McKibben, president of climate group 350.org. “That gives him new stature as an environmental leader.”
The Republican-led Congress passed legislation forcing approval of the pipeline in February,which Obama swiftly vetoed, saying it conflicted with “established executive branch procedures” and would cut short “thorough consideration” of its environmental and security implications.
But that consideration has dragged on for years. The administration delayed a decision after the environmental analysis was released, citing the need to wait for a lawsuit over the route through Nebraska to play out. Nebraska’s highest court allowed the pipeline route to go forward in January 2015, and the State Department asked other agencies to make their final comments on the pipeline by February. But the administration put off issuing its final decision, leading to months of speculation about when it might come.
TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling has implied over the last year that were Keystone rejected, the company would look to rail to transport the oil from Canada. There is also a possibility the company will reapply, should a Republican take the White House in 2016.