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Obama Expected to Reject Disputed Canada-U.S. Pipeline

by AFP
Saul Loeb—AFP

Saul Loeb—AFP

Controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline criticized for hurting the environment, doing little for U.S. jobs.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected Friday to block the construction of a controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States, ending years of bitter and politically charged debate.

Obama will make an unscheduled televised address from the White House, U.S. officials said, amid multiple press reports he was going to reject the plan. Opponents have argued that bringing tar sands crude 1,179 miles from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico would do little for U.S. jobs and would hurt the environment.

TransCanada first applied for permission to build the pipeline years ago. But until now, Obama’s White House has adamantly refused to take a public stance, ignoring a clamor of demands from environmentalists, the oil lobby and opposition Republicans who favor the plan.

Instead Obama hid behind a tortured bureaucratic process led by the U.S. State Department.

In recent weeks, that stance has become increasingly uncomfortable, with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—who once led the review as secretary of state—saying it should not be approved.

Clinton had used her former position as a rationale for not weighing in, saying she wanted Obama’s administration to finalize its assessment on the project. But during a campaign event in Iowa in September, she described Keystone as “a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and, unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward and deal with other issues.”

Obama’s announcement would come just days after the swearing-in of new center-left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—and after TransCanada tried to halt the review process. That move was rejected by U.S. government lawyers, and now appears to have been an attempt to avert outright rejection.

TransCanada shares fell around five percent on the news. The announcement also comes weeks before Obama is expected to travel to Paris to help ink a global climate accord aimed at limiting carbon emissions worldwide.

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