WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry is recommending the U.S. reject the Keystone XL pipeline, senior administration officials told CNN, concluding the controversial project is not in the country’s national security interest.
Kerry will meet with President Barack Obama this morning, after which the President is expected to publicly about his top diplomat’s decision.
Kerry’s determination spells almost certain death for the massive project, a seven-year political fight that has pitted oil companies and Republicans against environmentalists and liberal activists.
The State Department has been reviewing the project for much of Obama’s presidency, and the project has become a political football during presidential and congressional elections.
Protests from liberals and environmentalists who made Keystone a cause celebre among Democrats, including top donors such as California’s Tom Steyer, who has committed tens of millions of dollars against pro-pipeline political candidates.
The move comes as the White House continues to promote its environmental agenda and efforts to fight climate change. Next month, the administration is hoping to broker an international agreement committing every country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enact other policies to curb global warming.
The project was a major issue during the 2012 presidential campaign, when GOP candidate Mitt Romney said he would approve the pipeline. Republican candidates in the 2016 race have also all pledged to let the project go forward.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been caught up in Keystone politics. In October 2010, Clinton indicated she was “inclined” to approve the project, but has since backed away from that stance and in September said she opposes it. Fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also oppose the pipeline, and Clinton was facing some criticism from the left for not taking a firm stance.
TransCanada requested delay
Earlier this week Kerry rejected a request by TransCanada, the firm behind the $8 billion project, to halt its review of the pipeline as it awaits a separate process at the state level. The company said it could take up to 12 months for the Nebraska process to be completed, adding further delay to the already seven-year approval process. But such a move would have pushed the final decision on Keystone past 2016, and leaving it to Obama’s successor.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “there may be politics at play” in TransCanada’s request, suggesting it was an attempt to orchestrate such a scenario.
TransCanada, which has spent at least $2.5 billion on the project thus far, first applied for a permit to build the pipeline in 2008.
The proposed pipeline would span nearly 1,200 miles across six US states, moving more than 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum daily from Canadian oil sands through Nebraska to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Proponents of the project, including all the Republican presidential candidates, say the pipeline would advance energy independence in North America and construction of it will create jobs.
Falling oil and gasoline prices may have helped delay the project as well. The average price of regular gasoline hit $3.94 per gallon in April 2012 and stayed well above $3 for the rest of that election year. But this year, prices have been steadily below $3 per gallon.