In a move that has been equally hailed by environmental groups as it has been condemned by Republicans, Barack Obama has rejected the controversial plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision ends a long and often fraught seven-year battle to gain construction approval for the project, which would see oil piped 1,897 kilometers (1,179 miles) from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
In his official announcement of the rejection on Friday, Obama cited three main reasons for his verdict. This first is that despite an initial increase in construction jobs, the project “would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy,” he said. The second reason is that despite claims by those who support the pipeline, it would not lead to lower energy prices – a decline which has already occurred due to an increase in domestic gas production. Finally, he said that Keystone XL will not increase energy security, and that role could instead be filled by renewable energy sources.
The move has come in Obama’s final term in office, during which he has brought the fight against climate change to the front. The rejection is also seen as a move to strengthen his position in the up-and-coming COP21 climate talks in Paris later this month, stating: “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action on climate change.”
The Canadian company behind the project, TransCanada, was obviously unhappy with the decision, saying that “Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science – rhetoric won out over reason.” The verdict has also been heavily criticized by members of Congress who support the project, with some planning on mounting a challenge to the decision in court. And if a Republican manages to get elected next year, it’s thought that they could still reverse the move.
Even so, the news is seen as a major win for grassroots action fighting against the fossil fuel and extractive industries, with pressure coming not just from environmental groups, but also landowners and indigenous rights groups who have all rallied together to fight the project.