WASHINGTON: United States (US) President Barack Obama, on Friday, blocked the Keystone XL oil pipeline that Canada sought to build into the US, ruling it would harm the fight against climate change.
The long-awaited decision was a blow to Canada’s new leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and pipeline operator TransCanada warned that it may file an application to renew the project.
But Obama, with one eye on the upcoming global climate change summit in Paris, said, “Keystone would not serve the national interests of the US and could prove an environmental hazard.”
“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fighting climate change,” he said. “Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.”
Trudeau, just two days into the job as Canada’s premier, expressed disappointment at the decision — which cuts off a potential key export route for Canadian oil — but was philosophical.
“The Canada-US relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and cooperation,” he said.
Although the decision was not a surprise, TransCanada’s shares fell sharply and the company quickly vowed to resurrect its bid, implicitly suggesting Obama’s 2017 successor may revive the plan.
“TransCanada and its shippers remain absolutely committed to building this important energy infrastructure project,” chief executive Russ Girling said.
Public opinion has been divided over the project on both sides of the border, and for many, the debate has become a proxy for one on the broader issues of climate change and pollution from Canada’s tar sands.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth said it was a victory for the fight against fossil fuels.
At the end of the month, Obama will travel to Paris to help ink a global climate accord aimed at limiting carbon emissions worldwide. He said he had called Trudeau and both leaders agreed to work together on energy and climate issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.