“The Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest,” it said in a statement.
The administration had delayed its decision on the pipeline last November, citing concern over the pipeline’s route through Nebraska’s sensitive Sand Hills region. The State Department said it would undertake an “in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes.”
Congress responded to that delay by giving the White House until Feb. 21 to make a decision on the project.
Last November, an estimated 10,000 people descended on the White House to protest the pipeline, continuing a very visible effort that had begun in late August. The opposition led some to wonder whether approving the pipeline might alienate too much of Obama’s political base.
“The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory,” 350.org activist Bill McKibben, who helped lead the protests, wrote in a response to early reports of the pending rejection. “But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers.”
Pipeline operator TransCanada said it plans to re-apply for a permit for the project, which it claims will be key for U.S. job creation and energy security. “This outcome is one of the scenarios we anticipated,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said in an online statement. “While we are disappointed, TransCanada remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL. Plans are already underway on a number of fronts to largely maintain the construction schedule of the project.”