U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on his threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, maintaining under his full control the final decision on the Canadian project’s future.
His office downplayed the gesture, only the third veto of his presidency.
There was to be no “drama or fanfare around it,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
It’s “certainly possible” that Obama will approve the pipeline once a State Department review of the project is completed, he added, though he gave no deadline for a decision.
I think you should take this personally … Canada is being singled out
Yet the move is another slap in the face to Canada, which has championed the pipeline for years and did everything by the book to get it approved, only to be led down the garden path, through a maze of roadblocks and traps, by its supposed best friend and ally.
“I think you should take this personally,” said Matt Koch, vice-president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
“We have had a long relationship with your country as far as trade, been key allies for decades or centuries, and we have tried to highlight the importance of the relationship at the U.S. Chamber. Some of it has been caught up in U.S. politics. But we think that Canada is being singled out.”
To not see it that way is to miss the obvious: that relations with Canada are less important to the President than securing his climate-change legacy, no matter how hollow, misguided, or fact-challenged, as defined by the green lobby.
Indeed, environmental organizations have not pulled punches toward our country — and no other oil supplier to the U.S. — throughout their campaigns to put Keystone XL through unprecedented scrutiny.
“This veto is conclusive proof that activism works,” 350.org executive director May Boeve said in a statement Tuesday. “After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil. As the President himself has argued, Keystone XL would worsen climate change, threaten the safety of farmers and landowners in America’s heartland, and create essentially no long-term jobs — all so a Canadian oil company gets to ship dirty tar sands to the rest of the world.”
Kimble Ainslie, president of Nordex Research, a long-time analyst of Canada/U.S. relations, said the veto underscores the damaged relations between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Obama administration.
“There is no personal feeling between these guys,” Mr. Ainslie said. “Indeed, as far as I can see, Harper has written him off on this file. And Obama could not care less about Canadian interests on KXL. Not when his legacy issue, climate change, is at stake. It is complicated and it is a mess. The next best opportunity is likely 2017, post-Obama.”
Mr. Ainslie believes the veto foreshadows a final White House rejection.
“He couldn’t possibly support the pipeline,” he said, given his climate change goals. “It is a silly, silly decision. We have scores of pipelines crisscrossing North America.”
The veto marked the end of the latest Congressional efforts to circumvent a State Department review that has lasted more than six years.
The Republican-controlled House and Senate failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Republican leaders said they would look for new ways to win greater support.
The U.S. President has repeatedly said that he wanted a State Department review of the TransCanada Corp. project to end before deciding whether to allow the $8 billion pipeline.
Calgary-based TransCanada said it would continue to follow the process in good faith.
“The facts show Keystone XL passes the national interest determination test and President Obama’s climate test,” president and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement.
“Keystone XL will be the safest pipeline ever built in America and be an important part of a modern energy infrastructure system that helps minimize impacts to the environment. The State Department’s exhaustive six years of scientific study has consistently confirmed that Keystone XL will operate at a higher level of safety than any other pipeline currently in operation and will have a minimal impact on the environment.”
For sure, the possibility remains that the President wants to approve Keystone XL on his own terms.
Or that KXL is now all about U.S. politics.
“This is not a debate between Canada and the US; it’s a debate between the President and the American people, who are supportive of the project,” said Greg Rickford, Canada’s Natural Resources minister. “ It is not a question of if this project will be approved; it is a matter of when.”
Yet numerous opportunities have already come up for President Obama to give his stamp of approval, or to inject reasonableness in the debate, or to jointly look with Canada for a path forward.
Yet he chose to fan the flames or look the other way, while allowing Keystone XL, a pipeline meant to cement the bond between Canada and the U.S., to become its divider.