Obama rejects Keystone pipeline plan, Arkansas lawmakers criticize the decision (Updated)

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 429 views 

President Barack Obama on Friday (Nov. 6) rejected the Keystone XL pipeline proposal after a lengthy State Department review of the controversial project. The move ignited a barrage of criticism from Arkansas’ Congressional delegation and the oil and gas industry.

“Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security,” Obama said in a press conference with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry at this side.

TransCanada said the $8 billion pipeline project would create 9,000 construction jobs, and a State Department report said the project would support 42,000 direct and indirect jobs. The project received support from the AFL-CIO, typically an ally of the White House.

Obama, in his brief speech explaining his rejection of the Keystone project, made the case that shipping crude oil into the U.S. from Canada would not improve America’s energy independence or lower energy prices into today’s economy. “First, the pipeline would not make a meaningful, long-term contribution to our economy. So, if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it,” Obama said.

He continued: “Second, the pipeline would not lower gas for America consumers. In fact, prices have already been falling – steadily,” he argued. “The national average gas price is down about 77 cents over a year ago, down one dollar over two years ago, and down $1.27 over three years. Today, in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than $2 a gallon. While our politics have been consumed by debate on whether the pipeline will create jobs and lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.”

But the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the nation’s oil and gas industry, said the president’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a clear example of politics coming before the interests of U.S. workers and consumers.

“It’s ironic that the administration would strike a deal to allow Iranian crude onto the global market while refusing to give our closest ally, Canada, access to U.S. refineries,” said API President and CEO Jack Gerard. “This decision will cost thousands of jobs and is an assault to American workers. It’s politics at its worst.”

In Arkansas, the state’s congressional delegation and much of the business community has supported the Keystone pipeline, mainly because of Welspun’s role in building the pipeline that would deliver oil from the Hardisty, Alberta terminal in Canada through the Cushing, Okla., energy distribution hub to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. Welspun has a pipe production operation in Little Rock.

To date, Welspun has manufactured 700 miles of the 36-inch-diameter steel pipe needed to complete the multistate pipeline. Welspun, which employs nearly 600 workers in Arkansas, did not immediately return calls to Talk Business & Politics seeking comment for this story.

In a video on the TransCanada website, Welspun officials say that more than 350 miles of pipe now lay idle at the Little Rock plant awaiting approval of the project.

Almost immediately after the president’s speech, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released a statement saying that Obama put his political allies ahead of the interest of Arkansas workers and families.

“Worse, both he and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent years pretending to deliberate this decision when it was their intention to kill Arkansas jobs from the beginning. Rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline is a mistake – one that comes at great cost to our economy and our national security,” Cotton said. “This project would lower energy costs and create and sustain jobs in the Natural State and across the country. And it would facilitate United States energy independence, making us less reliant on the turbulent Middle East.”

This map was created by TransCanada to promote the jobs benefit of the Keystone XL project.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., also criticized the President’s decision.

“Today’s announcement unfortunately comes as no surprise. The Obama Administration bowed to the pressure of far-left environmentalists and rejected the Keystone Pipeline on purely political grounds,” Boozman noted in a statement. “The Keystone Pipeline is the type of commonsense, job creating infrastructure project that America needs. It would create well-paying jobs for skilled laborers, at no expense to the taxpayers, and in fact had already created hundreds of jobs in Arkansas, all the while helping get oil on the market from one of our closest allies.”

Boozman in January co-sponsored legislation pushing for approval of the pipeline project. The Senate voted 62-36 for the bill, but after an Obama veto of the bill, a 62-37 vote failed to override the veto.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said the decision was not a surprise.

“Americans want the opportunities created by the Keystone XL.  I am disappointed, but not surprised, that President Obama has again put a restrictive energy agenda and the call of extreme environmental groups over the interests of honest Americans and their jobs and economy.”

By Friday afternoon as news of Obama’s speech spread, other groups began to comment on the decision to halt the $8 billion project that proponents say would support 42,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide.

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LUNA) said Obama “demonstrated that he cares more about kowtowing to green-collar elitists than he does about creating desperately needed, family-supporting, blue-collar jobs.”

“After a seven-year circus of cowardly delay, the President’s decision to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one more indication of an utter disdain and disregard for salt-of-the-earth, middle-class working Americans,” O’Sullivan said. “We are dismayed and disgusted that the President has once again thrown the members of LIUNA, and other hard-working, blue-collar workers under the bus of his vaunted ‘legacy,’ while doing little or nothing to make a real difference in global climate change. His actions are shameful.”

On the other side of the issue, the Arkansas Sierra Club released this statement from Chapter Director Glen Hooks: “Those of us who remember the 2013 tar sands pipeline rupture in Mayflower are celebrating today’s decision. That pipeline carried toxic tar sands oil that flooded and devastated an entire Arkansas community for months. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline put our American communities and health at risk for the same destruction as Mayflower, all for the profits of a Canadian oil company. Today’s decision is an incredible victory for our health, our environment, and our economy.

“While the dirty Keystone XL project wasn’t routed to come through Arkansas, today’s rejection of the project is good news for our state and our nation. Stopping KXL is key to weaning ourselves from the dangers of fossil fuels and moving us toward a clean energy future. If we’re going to stop global climate disruption, we must get away from fossil fuels – today is a big step in that direction.”