Obama administration denies permit for Keystone pipeline

Posted Jan. 18, 2012, at 5:41 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has denied a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, asserting that it did not “have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest,” the State Department announced Wednesday.

The decision is sure to prolong a bitter political fight that has raged for months over the pipeline’s fate.

For Republicans, the oil industry and the Chamber of Commerce, Keystone has become a one-word campaign slogan: synonymous with many of the themes of government regulatory overreach they have tried over the course of the year to pin on President Barack Obama.

For environmentalists and others in the Democratic base, the administration’s decision to deny the permit reflects a resolve and a willingness to stand up to big business they have long asked Obama to show.

The announcement, which does not preclude the pipeline company from reapplying, comes in response to a 60-day deadline Congress imposed in late December on the decision-making process for the permit as part of a deal to extend a payroll-tax break and unemployment benefits for two months.

Wednesday’s decision makes official what the administration has said from the outset: that under current law, it cannot accelerate the permitting process, especially in light of the need for additional environmental reviews of a new path for the pipeline through Nebraska.

“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 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.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the decision is another example of how Obama’s policies are making the American economy “worse.”

“The president is selling out American jobs for politics,” Boehner said. “This is not the end of the fight. Republicans in Congress will continue to push this because it’s good for our country and it’s good for our economy and it’s good for the American people especially those who are looking for work.”

Nebraska has not identified possible alternate routes that would allow the pipeline to circumvent a key aquifer.

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