President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, using his veto pen to sweep aside one of the first major challenges to his authority by the new Republican Congress.
With no fanfare and a 104-word letter to the Senate, Mr. Obama vetoed legislation to authorize construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Environmentalists are applauding the decision:
In recent months, the environmental activists — who have spent years marching, protesting and getting arrested outside the White House in their quest to persuade Mr. Obama to reject the project — have said they are increasingly optimistic that their efforts will succeed.
“Hopefully the ongoing legislative charade has strengthened his commitment to do the right thing,” said Bill McKibben, a founder of the group 350.org, which has led the campaign to urge Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.
The debate began in 2008, when the TransCanada Corporation applied for a permit to construct the pipeline. The State Department is required to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, but the last word on whether the project will go forward ultimately rests with the president.
Mr. Obama has delayed making that decision until all the legal and environmental reviews of the process are completed. He has said a critical factor in his decision will be whether the project contributes to climate change.
Last year, an 11-volume environmental impact review by the State Department concluded that oil extracted from the Canadian oil sands produced about 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventionally extracted oil.
But the review said the pipeline was unlikely to contribute to a significant increase in planet-warming greenhouse gases because the fuel would probably be extracted from the oil sands and sold with or without construction of the pipeline.
The question of whether to build the pipeline comes as Mr. Obama hopes to make climate change policy a cornerstone of his legacy. This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to issue sweeping regulations to cut greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, a move experts say would have vastly more impact on the nation’s carbon footprint than construction of the Keystone pipeline.
While the pipeline may still not be 100% shut down, this is an environmentally friendly step in the right direction!