Obama administration delays politically-sensitive pipeline decision
Thousands protested the proposed Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House November 6, 2011.
November 10th, 2011
04:40 PM ET

Obama administration delays politically-sensitive pipeline decision

The State Department Thursday authorized an extension to study the routing of a controversial oil pipeline in order to study the environmental sensitivities, a move that will delay a final decision until after the next presidential election.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that planed to transport oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast was thought to be in the final stages of review following a summer of State Department sponsored town hall meetings in communities where the pipeline planned to cross.

In a written statement supporting the State Department’s announcement, President Obama said: “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

“The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people,” Obama said in his statement.

With the announcement, the State Department said it was necessary to study alternative routes that may be less environmentally harmful.

House Speaker John Boehner blasted the President for a ““failure of leadership“. In his own statement the top congressional Republican said “More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency. By punting on this project, the President has made clear that campaign politics are driving U.S. policy decisions – at the expense of American jobs. The current project has already been deemed environmentally sound, and calling for a new route is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to avoid upsetting the President’s political base before the election.”

With the announcement, the State Department said it was necessary to study alternative routes that may be less environmentally harmful.

The most contentious part of the proposed project was the proposal for it to travel over the shallow Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. The aquifer provides drinking water to a large portion of the population surrounding the aquifer.

Some of the meetings went beyond an informative question and answer session over the pipeline, to emotional forums with angry residents voicing their frustration over the project.

Many environmental activists including actors Daryl Hannah and Mark Ruffalo descended on the White House to participate in loud protests over the pipeline.

“The president should know that nothing that happened today changes our position–we’re unequivocal in our opposition,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an organization that organized protests over the pipeline. “If this pipeline proposal reemerges from the review process intact we will use every form of nonviolent civil disobedience to keep it from ever being built.”


Topics: Energy • President Obama

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Notfooled

    Really Mr. Boehner? You are concerned over losing 20,000 jobs (which is more like 5,000 jobs according to other sources) but it's ok to lose 1.9 million jobs from the American Jobs Act which President Obama proposed for infrastructure projects? It's really hard to tell how you are connected to oil corporations. You are disgusting.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • tomini

      Is that like all of those millions of jobs the stimulus supposedly generated. Like the thousands of jobs created by Obama's pet projects that went bankrupt. You're drunk opn koolaid, these are real jobs created by private industry that won't go away when the company syphons off the payoff and declares bankruptcy. These jobs will not cost the American tax payer hundreds of thousands of dollars for government jobs, or payoffs to his union buddies.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Chris

      20,000 immediate pipeline jobs, operators, welders, engineers, laborers.. Up to 200,000 jobs would have been created by this pipeline... Everything from lodging (camps), food industry, clothing.... Almost every service out there would have job creation.

      http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/featured/prime-time/867432237001/baracks-bizarre-move/1275284046001 See what the Canadian Media is saying about Obama

      November 14, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  2. BJ

    But this was 20,000 jobs not being paid for by taxpayers. Major difference.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  3. Steveo

    With the environmentalist threats, no one is surprised the decision had been delayed until AFTER the 2012 elections!

    November 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • russinmaine

      Every decision this President makes is based on reelection with little to no thought as to what is good for the nation and her people. He is a mega egotistical narcissist with out equal!

      November 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
      • Trace

        What amazing insight from the two of you (steveo/russ)! Politicians making political decisions. Who would have imagined that. Glad we now have that clarity.

        But realistically and factually, this president proposes policies that benefit this country's citizens. Unfortunately, we have another set of politicians that are paid by the likes of the Koch Brothers (you can guess which party that is), that only look out for the richest people in this country. So this particular president is a champion for everyone else.

        Here endeth the lesson...Any questions?....Ok Good; Carry on

        Happy Veteran's Day. I like the fact the President got the Veteran's Job bill passed. There is hope!

        November 11, 2011 at 11:04 am |
      • Steveo

        Trace,

        Let me assist your memory:

        Remember this?

        Green donors warn Obama: 'Do the right thing' on Keystone pipeline
        By Thom Patterson, CNN
        updated 10:46 AM EST, Fri October 28, 2011

        Nah, that doesn't sound like a threat at all, right?

        With hundreds of thousands of unemployed comedians, Trace! You sure you really want to go that route? Anyway, I appreciate the Veterans day greeting and I am also glad this administration is looking out for needy vets. Wait? What? We have some agreement? What in the world?

        November 11, 2011 at 11:53 am |
      • C-Lo

        Trace...you comment takes me back to one of my pillars of thought on the Presidency. And that is, we need to stop electing politicians to the White House–keep them in Congress. We need leaders in the White House, and it's for the exact reasons as are being discussed here.

        I posted on another string (still moderating) some thoughts I've struggled with on this topic, and hopefully it'll show up, but to summarize–I don't fault a president for making "political" decisions if the country is pushing him in that direction, as long as he sticks by those changes after re-election (i.e. not just lip service). If it's "my guy" in the White House, I want him to be a leader because I want him to enact the policies he ran on and why I voted for him. If it's "the other guy" in the WH, I want him to be a representative of the people to try to pull him at least a little more toward the middle (closer to my ideology).

        I think if you look at it in this light, most of us have the same attitude toward the POTUS.

        November 11, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  4. jean2009

    Mr. Boehner would rather sacrifice the environment on a dinosaur project instead of concentrating on getting our infrastructure u[graded and focusing on green technology which are things that would produce many more jobs than this pipeline.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • russinmaine

      Green energy is a great supplemental source to our nation and should be pursued. With that said, anyone that thinks it's all in green and to hell with oil at this stage of the game is living their life in a fallacy. The pipeline is a commendable idea on all levels. Instead you would have us at the mercy of the volatile middle east while turning a blind eye to our own reserves for what? A perception of what could or might happen? Shortsightedness in large volumes here!

      November 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
      • Maple Leaf

        Your reserves?
        Doesn't the oil belong to Canada?

        November 12, 2011 at 2:24 am |
      • jean2009

        @russinmaine
        We should be spending our time, money, and talent on catching up with China on green energy and new technologies.
        Time and time again the oil merchants out to destroy us have made sure we don't catch up. They would rather our auto industry go belly up, than research ways other than dirty oil to run our vehicles. You should read the story of Standard Oil in Ohio....the greed and disregard for the environment by the oil industry is not new it dominates history from its earliest days.

        November 13, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
      • Chris

        Green energy is very expensive! Ask the people of Toronto.
        Electricity, from 8 cents (CAN) per gig up to 80 C (CAN)per gig for this new green power

        November 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Dean

      Perhaps the Obama administration can find another Solyndra to waste money on. There will always be a need for petroleum.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • tomini

      Obama would rather give billions of dollars to Brazil so that they can drill for oil, so lets make it possible for others to polute the environment while we are at the whim of these countries and pay through the nose for energy to power our economy. Like solar panels covering the country side and windmills dotting the country side don't adversely affect the environment. You are delusional.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • jean2009

      @russinmaine
      We already have refineries, oil, and natural gas in quantities to hold us until we have a better handle on green technologies. I see no reason to complicate the process with a horrifically environmentally risky pipeline through the center of our country. Shale oil is without a doubt the dirtiest type of crude to produce.

      I would suggest reading Ohio History, the Standard Oil Company and the environment. http://www.bilderberg.org History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida M. Tarbell and related articles.
      The oil industry has not changed. It is all about greed and dismantling the environment. They would rather see American car companies go bankrupt than see them find an alternative to oil. Anyone who has ever lived within a 25 mile radius of an oil refinery knows what it does to people's health and what it does to the environment. It is time to move forward in full force and go all out in green technology research.
      @ Ray E. Georgia I live in Ohio, and I lived within 7 miles of a Standard Oil refinery when I was growing up.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Gutless guy.

    November 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Jim Gunderson

    Has anyone thought that this project doesn't have to be either "create jobs' or' protect the environment'? The one thing that Sarah Palin said that I had to agree with was her was her stance on oil production, "Why NOT here?" We have the ability to accomplish great things without destroying everything in sight. We have standards, rules and regulations. So I ask, "Why not here?" Is this really an all or nothing problem? Allow companies that build to take advantage of opportunities, but not take unfair advantages that would harm society. That's the cost of business in the new economy. We as a people should not be threatened into backing down on standards that protect EVERYONES air, water, etc. Instead of getting rid of the EPA, double it! Think of the jobs that could be created! We can do this!

    November 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  7. russinmaine

    And what would you expect out of people that wouldn't perform their duties and give the American people a budget for fear of political repercussions? It's all about the vote, nothing more and nothing less! The pipeline will pass as soon as he figures out how to do so and keep his far left voters because the Unions want it!

    November 10, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  8. russinmaine

    If you are real concerned about jobs my friend then perhaps you should call your boy on the hill and tell him to call off Holder and his dogs from keeping Boeing from opening their new plant in South Carolina buily at a cost of $2billion. Over a 1000 high paying jobs are being stopped during a depression because he wants them to go build the plant over and spend another $2billion in a state where the unions can have control of the jobs, thus sending him his cut in kickbacks! Anyone still supporting this man is either a dyed in the wool member of the New Communist Party or a fool! There are no other possibilities!

    November 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  9. ronin48

    way to show some leadership, Barry. Is this your white house version of voting "present"?

    November 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  10. jerry

    what the hel# why lead now...forever the salesman/politician....time to elect a real leader!

    November 11, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Trace

      @ Jerry,

      Thank Heavens the majority of the electorate has enough good sense to recognize the gaggle of clowns running for the GOP/Tea Pee Party nomination would ruin this nation.

      But you have me curious....Which Clown from the GOP cabal would you say should be president? We all need a good laugh at your comedy stylings before we see it on Saturday Night Live, or John Stewart this week. You "Tea Party" types always keep us in stitches

      November 11, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  11. Ray E. Georgia

    I remember pipelines being built in the late 40's and early 50's. I don't remember anyone complaining then. If the Enviromental Whackos would let them build a Refinery in a northern state you wouldn't have to build a 1700 mile pipeline.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Kenneth Hargett

      This is not a normal pipeline – here are some facts:
      1. We are talking about oil (tar) sands bitumen, not crude oil.
      2. Bitumen is so thick that it cannot flow as a liquid, so it has to be diluted with other chemicals in order to force it through a pipeline – even a 3 foot pipeline such as the Keystone pipeline.
      3. The diluted bitumen, also called DilBit, is still 40 times thicker than conventional crude oil.
      4. In order to flow through a 3 foot diameter pipeline, the DilBit has to be pumped at very high pressure (1440 psi) and high temperature (175 F). This is compared to 600 psi and ambient temperatures for crude oil pipelines.
      5. Just for comparison, 1080 psi will sink an American Seawolf Class nuclear submarine.
      6. DilBit is also much more corrosive than conventional crude oil. DilBit contains 15 to 20 times higher acid concentrations than conventional crudes.
      7. DilBit also contains 5 to 10 times more sulfur as conventional crudes. This can lead to increased weakening and embrittlement of pipelines.
      8. Higher temperatures thin the DilBit and increase its speed through the pipeline, but they also increase the speed at which acids and other chemicals corrode the pipeline.
      9. Internal corrosion has caused more than sixteen times as many spills in the Alberta tar sands pipeline systems as for U.S. conventional pipeline systems.

      ... and that is only about the pipeline – the environmental and public health disaster happening in Alberta for developing the tar sands is much worse than the pipeline itself. Search for "The Tar Sands" i YouTube for tons of info of why this is such a bad idea.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
      • Chris

        You really need to do your own research and educate yourself. You can start by googling Syncrude oil....

        November 15, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • jean2009

      @ Ray
      I grew up in Ohio, 7 miles from a Standard Oil Refinery...no thanks....that is not good for anyone's health.
      When it comes to energy we need to quit thinking about the past and grasp the future. Of course, China hopes we will stay unfocused and interested only in oil....so we will never catch up with them.

      November 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Chris

      Ya and guess what, there already is a pipeline running from Alberta to Illinois moving oil from the oil-sands

      November 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  12. hesea

    This would create thounds of jobs which I thought Obama was focused on...but it would upset the envirnomentalists so as usual rather than make a decision Obama delays...leadership at it's finest...kick the can down the road..so much for jobs

    November 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  13. Sarah

    The delay will cause this new creation of jobs for hard-working American citizens and much needed non-Middle Eastern oil to go to CHINA!!! Canada is not going to wait on American politician douche-bags to give an answer sometime AFTER the 2012 election. American has lost out to CHINA...seriously??

    November 12, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Karen

      The oil is destined for China anyway...That has been well documented. It's just a matter of making it easier for that to happen if we allow the pipeline. Duh.

      November 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
      • Chris

        The OIL Karen will be transported via pipeline to Texas where it will be REFINED into oil bi-products, diesel, gasoline ect... DUH

        November 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  14. Kenneth Hargett

    For those who don't understand, this decision fits hand in hand with the core values and politics that President Obama was elected for in the first place ... and yes, this decision will probably get him reelected.

    Look at the following two quotes by Obama and you will see why. I for one am proud to have a small part in reminding the president of his promises.

    “Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.” – Barrack Obama 2007

    "As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment." – President Barack Obama 2010

    November 12, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  15. hesea

    Our two biggest problems jobs and our dependancy on foreign oil. What does Obama do, delay making a decision so now what are the Canadians thinking about doing, building the pipeline to the west coast so the Chinese can buy the oil, no jobs, and oil from our closest ally going to china unbelievable!

    November 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Chris

      Obama only cares about saving his own job.... Keystone XL will employ 300,000 Canadians and 200,000 American jobs...

      We have 6 trillion + barrels of oil in the form of oil-sands, if America doesn't want it, China and Japan do.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:47 am |
      • Karen

        Of course China wants it...and that's where it will go...after it has crossed our country and the Ogallala Aquifer, with the potential to devastate the economy of a state like Nebraska. It won't make any difference to our energy independence. Doesn't anyone wonder why the Republican Governor of Nebraska and the Republican Senator from NE oppose the pipeline route? It's about the future economic impact this pipeline could have which would devastate the Midwest if there were a leak. And I have seen the disaster left behind on the land the pipelines cross...it is never the same, and the landowners are paid a pittance.

        November 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • Chris

        Karen, South American countries don't have the capacity to refine all their oil, the US exports oil bi-products to South American markets, the oil won't be shipped from Texas to China. The US is in direct competition with China for middle eastern oil, it makes no sense for the US to export oil to China.

        November 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  16. Derek, Houston TX

    Right now, the Chinese are laughing at us. We are not smart enough to do business with our closest neighbor, potentially leaving the door wide open for them. And how did we reach this conclusion? Hollywood IDIOTS like Daryl Hannah and similar ilk are making decisions for us.

    To top it off, Obama would claim that this is not a political decision. What an idiot. He hasn't created a job since he got into office, and he can't get out of the way of thousands of jobs that he did not create.

    Well done Mr. President. You can pretty much guess that no matter how bad the GOP gets, they can win an election based on poor decision making like this.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  17. Chad798

    We can not allow our energy independence to be held hostage from campaign decisions.. We must push this job through even if that means voting Obama out of Office

    November 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  18. Chris

    Here is a very good presentation... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38CLvJgwoOE

    November 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm |