Obama rejects pipeline; cites ‘arbitrary’ GOP deadline

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he’s denying an application for a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline because a GOP-mandated deadline didn’t allow time for a full review.

Obama says his decision isn’t a judgment on the merits of the proposed $7 billion pipeline. Rather, he’s citing the “arbitrary nature” of the Feb. 21 deadline that was set by a GOP-written provision in a recent tax bill that Obama signed.

The president says in a statement that he’s disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced the decision. Obama had until late next month to decide whether the pipeline was in the national interest.

Administration officials say the looming deadline cut short the time needed to conduct environmental reviews after the State Department ordered the project developer to find an alternate route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. It would pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

House Speaker John Boehner says Obama is breaking his promise to create jobs by rejecting the pipeline plan.

Boehner says Republicans will keep fighting for the Keystone XL pipeline because the project is good for the U.S. economy because it would create thousands of jobs.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper says he told Obama he was profoundly disappointed after the U.S. president called to tell him the administration rejected the plan to build the pipeline.

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Harper, said today that Obama explained the decision was not on the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline, but rather on the “arbitrary nature” of the Feb. 21 deadline set by a Republicans as part of tax measure he signed.

Obama said the decision was without prejudice, meaning that TransCanada is free to reapply.

MacDougall says Harper told Obama that he hoped the pipeline would ultimately be approved given the jobs it would create both in Canada and the U.S.

The decision drew quick praise from environmentalists. “We won on Keystone,” the Friends of the Earth organization proclaimed in an e-mail to supporters, asking them to send messages of gratitude to Obama, and a contribution to the organization.

But other congressional Republicans were quick to echo Boehner, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who called the decision “extremely disappointing” and questioned Obama’s commitment to stimulating the job market. “The American people — who are already suffereing from near-record unemployment and rising energy prices — deserve better than this type of ‘leadership,’ ” she said in a press release.

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho called the decision “flat wrong”, and accused Obama of putting politics before jobs.

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