WASHINGTON — President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline Friday split Minnesota’s U.S. Senate and House delegations.
“The State Department has decided that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States,” Obama said. “I agree with that decision.”
The president called the pipeline “a campaign cudgel” used by both parties that “obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”
Still, congressional reactions within the Minnesota delegation remained as strident and hyperbolic as ever, reflecting the political litmus test that Keystone became.
Republicans and at least one Democrat saw a missed opportunity to create thousands of jobs, keep oil prices down and reduce oil train traffic in the state.
Other Democrats who could be reached for comment saw a welcome commitment to clean energy that eventually would make the nation less dependent on fossil fuels.
“I’m disappointed that a project that would support thousands of U.S. jobs, increase safety for Minnesota communities, and add billions of dollars to the American economy will be blocked,” Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen said in a statement shortly after Obama announced his decision. “It’s sad that this important infrastructure project that has broad bipartisan support has fallen victim to politics as usual in Washington.”
Fellow Republicans Reps. John Kline and Tom Emmer echoed those sentiments and noted that Keystone XL could have relieved existing rail transportation problems in Minnesota.
“In Minnesota we have seen the devastating impact on safety and congestion from crude oil being sent by freight rail from the Bakken oil fields.” Emmer said.
Added Kline: The pipeline could “free up transportation infrastructure in Minnesota opening our rails to ship other products and crops produced in our great state.”
Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, part of whose district is crossed by rail lines from Canada, fretted about oil train traffic.
“In a single year, some 800 trains carrying 21 million barrels of Canadian oil a year cross the 107-year-old wooden bridge at Ranier-International Falls,” Nolan said in a statement. “We’ve got to find a safer way — and more environmentally friendly — way to transport this oil.”
Some of Nolan’s Democratic colleagues offered starkly different conclusions.
“The president has determined that the Keystone XL pipeline would result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, while doing little to nothing to lower gas prices or enhance energy security,” Democratic Sen. Al Franken said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “While this decision took too long, I have consistently said that Congress should not circumvent the established federal review process. Since that process determined that the project is not in the national interest, I agree that it should not move forward.”
A Facebook posting by Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum praised Obama for rejecting the pipeline.
“This project would have been an environmental disaster,” McCollum said. “I will continue my work to ensure that our nation is building for the future with strong investments in clean energy.”
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison called Obama’s action “great news for our climate, which means it’s great news for all Americans. “
“The pipeline would have endangered our land and water, and the fuel flowing through it would have been a major contributor to global climate change,” Ellison added in a statement.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar urged everyone to move on.
“Now that the administration has made a decision, it is time for Congress and the administration to focus on making long-term investments in American infrastructure and saving energy costs by passing both the pending energy bill and the Senate-passed infrastructure bill,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
But recriminations seem likely to continue. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent heavily to lobby for the pipeline, accused Obama of breaking promises.
“This decision is the latest in a number of administration actions — such as attempting to destroy the coal industry, over regulating natural gas, keeping 86 percent of American oil reserves under lock and key, and failing to improve the permitting process — that have undermined America’s energy revolution, slowed growth, and cost good-paying jobs,” a Chamber news release stated.
The difficulty of moving oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast has sparked years of debate among oil producers and environmentalist. Pipeline opponents warned of disastrous oil spills from pipeline breaks while producers pointed out that pipelines were far safer than shipping oil by train. Oil train traffic has increased significantly through Minnesota since the Bakken Fields in North Dakota began to yield a million barrels of crude per day.
The complexity and expense of extracting oil from tar sands in Canada set off a discussion of environmental damage from the mining process itself.