WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama announced Friday he has rejected a request to build the Keystone XL pipeline over continuing concerns of climate change, a move that underscores the administration's resolve to remain focused on environmental issues in the president's second term.
Obama, appearing with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, said the pipeline request seven years ago from Keystone developer TransCanada "would not serve in the national interest of the United States."
Obama said the pipeline would not make a "meaningful, longterm contribution to our economy," would not lower gas prices for consumers and would not lessen the country's dependance on fossil fuels. He said the United States has made strides without the Keystone project, pointing out gas prices are lower and jobs are already on the rise in the country.
"The pipeline would not make a meaningful longterm contribution to our economy,'' he said in a hastily called press conference.
The announcement comes after the State Department rejected TransCanada's request this week for an extension on the federal review of the project, a move that may have delayed the final decision on the pipeline for a possible Republican president in 2017.
The American Petroleum Institute blasted Obama's decision as a "clear example of politics coming before the interests of U.S. workers and consumers." API President and CEO Jack Gerard said the White House rejected "sound science" in the interest of politics.
"Seven years of review have determined the project is safe and environmentally sound, yet the administration has turned its back on Canada with this decision, and on U.S. energy security as well," Gerard said.
Even with Obama's announcement, the decision on the Keystone XL is far from over. Pipeline backers are expected to challenge Obama's decision in court. The Republican-controlled Congress may try to override his decision as well. A new president can undo the administration's action after taking office.
Democrats and environmental groups have been pushing the Obama administration to make a decision ahead of the the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on Nov. 30, a gathering focused on constructing a global deal to reduce carbon emissions worldwide.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of the global climate advocacy group 350.org, praised the president's action, saying it marks "the first time in history a world leader has turned down a major infrastructure project because of its impact on the climate."
"That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight," he said. "We're still oftly sad about Keystone south and are well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration."
The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline would have moved some 830,000 barrels of oil a day, from Canada to refineries along the southern coast of the United States.
In the seven years since the pipeline project was introduced, it has become a lightning rod for the ongoing debate over climate change and dependance on fossil fuels. Supporters have argued it would stimulate the economy in North America, while critics say the crude oil would wreak havoc on the environment.
"We [are] committed to fighting climate change and protecting our environment," he said in an open letter to the Canadian people.