Yes, you can stop Keystone XL
Yes, you can stop Keystone XL

Flanked by Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced today that his admin­is­tra­tion has — after a lengthy and repeat­ed­ly delayed review process — reject­ed oil giant Tran­sCanada’s appli­ca­tion to build the Key­stone XL pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border.

“Now, for years, the Key­stone [XL] Pipeline has occu­pied what I, frankly, con­sid­er an over­in­flat­ed role in our polit­i­cal dis­course,” said the Pres­i­dent said in his open­ing remarks. “It became a sym­bol too often used as a cam­paign cud­gel by both par­ties rather than a seri­ous pol­i­cy mat­ter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would nei­ther be a sil­ver bul­let for the econ­o­my, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to cli­mate dis­as­ter pro­claimed by others.”

Despite his pro­fessed belief that Key­stone XL would not have been “the express lane to cli­mate dis­as­ter” the Pres­i­dent acknowl­edged that approval of Key­stone XL would have hurt seri­ous­ly inter­na­tion­al efforts to com­bat the cli­mate crisis.

“Amer­i­ca is now a glob­al leader when it comes to tak­ing seri­ous action to fight cli­mate change,” Oba­ma said. “And frankly, approv­ing this project would have under­cut that glob­al lead­er­ship. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.”

Pro­gres­sive lead­ers across the coun­try praised Oba­ma’s decision.

“This is a big win. Pres­i­dent Obama’s deci­sion to reject Key­stone XL because of its impact on the [Earth­’s] cli­mate is noth­ing short of his­toric — and sets an impor­tant prece­dent that should send shock­waves through the fos­sil fuel indus­try,” said May Boeve, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of

“Just a few years ago, insid­ers and experts wrote us off and assured the world Key­stone XL would be built by the end of 2011. Togeth­er, ranch­ers, trib­al nations and every­day peo­ple beat this project back, remind­ing the world that Big Oil isn’t invin­ci­ble — and that hope is a renew­able resource,” she point­ed out.

“But the win against Key­stone XL is just the begin­ning, because this fight has helped inspire resis­tance to a thou­sand oth­er projects. Every­where you look, peo­ple are shut­ting down frack­ing wells, stop­ping coal export facil­i­ties, and chal­leng­ing new pipelines. If Big Oil thinks that after Key­stone XL the pro­test­ers are going home, they’re going to be sore­ly surprised.”

“We stood our ground and today Pres­i­dent Oba­ma stood with us, the pipeline fight­ers,” agreed Jane Kleeb, the Direc­tor of the grass­roots group Bold Nebras­ka.

“Tonight landown­ers can final­ly go to sleep know­ing their fam­i­ly is safe and sound,” Kleeb added. “Our unlike­ly alliance showed Amer­i­ca that hard work and sci­en­tif­ic facts can beat Big Oil’s threat to our land and water.”

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s deci­sion is coura­geous and his­toric,” said Nebras­ka ranch­er Randy Thomp­son, also affil­i­at­ed with Bold Nebras­ka. “He did what was right in the face of a total­ly mis­guid­ed and unre­lent­ing effort by the Repub­li­can par­ty and Big Oil to shove this pipeline down our throats. His­to­ry will defend Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and our descen­dants will for­ev­er be indebt­ed to him.”

The admin­is­tra­tion’s rejec­tion of Key­stone XL per­haps not coin­ci­den­tal­ly came with­in hours of the swear­ing in of new Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, who won a stun­ning man­date in last mon­th’s Cana­di­an fed­er­al elections.

Trudeau, who guid­ed the Lib­er­als back into the major­i­ty after they were rel­e­gat­ed to third par­ty sta­tus four years ago, had empha­sized he would not allow U.S.-Canadian rela­tions to dete­ri­o­rate in the event that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion reject­ed the pipeline, unlike his pre­de­ces­sor, Con­ser­v­a­tive Stephen Harp­er, an ardent Tran­sCana­da boost­er, who hint­ed he would­n’t take no for an answer.

Oba­ma revealed dur­ing his remarks that he had called Trudeau — also a backer of Key­stone XL — to noti­fy him in advance of the decision.

“And while he expressed his dis­ap­point­ment, giv­en Canada’s posi­tion on this issue, 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,” said the President.

“And in the com­ing weeks, senior mem­bers of my team will be engag­ing with theirs in order to help deep­en that cooperation.”

Canada’s busi­ness estab­lish­ment and big media denounced the decision.

“It’s offi­cial. The Key­stone XL pipeline has become col­lat­er­al dam­age in a war of per­cep­tions. The tor­tu­ous saga of the cursed pipeline mer­its its very own and very long chap­ter in the annals of Canada‑U.S. rela­tions,” wrote Kon­rad Yak­abus­ki for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s news­pa­per of record.

“Clear­ly we’re dis­ap­point­ed in today’s deci­sion,” said Steve Williams, head hon­cho at Sun­cor, anoth­er large Cana­di­an oil company.

“I am very dis­ap­point­ed that one pipe, near­ly a metre wide, is being asked to bear all the sins of the car­bon econ­o­my,” said Cal­gary May­or Naheed Nen­shi, speak­ing as though the pro­posed Key­stone XL pipeline is a per­son (which it isn’t).

“This is very dif­fi­cult for the Cana­di­an oil and gas indus­try,” said for­mer Tran­sCana­da CEO Hal Kvisle, who con­ceived the pipeline.

But pro­gres­sive Cana­di­ans were thrilled.

“The Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans cel­e­brates the defeat of the Key­stone XL pipeline,” wrote CoC polit­i­cal direc­tor Brent Pat­ter­son. “We trav­elled to Wash­ing­ton, DC on at least three occa­sions to join protests against the pipeline, includ­ing call­ing on the Cana­di­an embassy in August 2011 to demand that they stop lob­by­ing for the pipeline, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Sur­round the White House action in Novem­ber 2011, and the For­ward on Cli­mate protest in Feb­ru­ary 2013.”

“By the time Mr. Trudeau took over the file from Harp­er, it was clear­ly too far gone for him to do any­thing about it. Now, if he’s seri­ous about forg­ing a new rela­tion­ship with Oba­ma and the US, he would do well not to shed a tear over Key­stone and to move on to more impor­tant mat­ters,” wrote Damien Gilliss.

Pew Research report­ed last month that it found a plu­ral­i­ty of Cana­di­ans opposed — that’s right, opposed — to the Key­stone XL pipeline (48%) when it sur­veyed denizens of the coun­try about the issue. 42% of respon­dents said they favored the pipeline’s con­struc­tion. Giv­en that most Cana­di­ans are not in favor of Key­stone XL, its demise is unlike­ly to cause much con­ster­na­tion out­side of Canada’s equiv­a­lent of the Belt­way, and out­side of oil-rich and tar sands-reliant Alberta.

We at NPI feel this deci­sion was long over­due and very much nec­es­sary. Key­stone XL was in nobody’s best inter­est. We’re cer­tain­ly glad to see it nixed. This is a coura­geous deci­sion by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma that calls for great celebration.

But we’re also mind­ful that there are many oth­er bad pipeline projects that the oil indus­try wants to see built. Fur­ther activism and orga­niz­ing in both the Unit­ed States and Cana­da is need­ed to defeat those bad projects too.

POSTSCRIPT: Globe and Mail colum­nist Paul Kor­ing, who works out of D.C., opines that the tim­ing and log­ic of the admin­is­tra­tion’s deci­sion had lit­tle to do with Cana­da and every­thing to do with U.S. cred­i­bil­i­ty on the world stage.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “President Barack Obama announces his administration has rejected Keystone XL”

  1. The Key­stone XL pipeline was a stu­pid idea to begin with, because there is no equip­ment to clean-up a tox­ic, tar sands spill. Remem­ber the Kalamazoo.

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