White House Disputes Report on Keystone XL Decision

National Journal
Jason Plautz
April 23, 2014, 3:48 p.m.

The White House is push­ing back against a Rolling Stone magazine story that cites two “high-level” Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sources say­ing Pres­id­ent Obama in­tends to re­ject the Key­stone XL pipeline.

“Nobody who knows POTUS’ think­ing on Key­stone is talk­ing and nobody who is talk­ing knows,” White House spokes­man Matt Lehrich said on Twit­ter Wed­nes­day even­ing.

In the Rolling Stone story pub­lished on­line Wed­nes­day, vet­er­an cli­mate writer Jeff Goodell writes that the un­named ad­min­is­tra­tion sources told him Obama has “all but de­cided to deny the per­mit for the pipeline,” al­though the piece notes “no fi­nal de­cision has been made.”

Later, the story quotes an “Obama in­sider” as say­ing “if the pres­id­ent is really ser­i­ous about his leg­acy on cli­mate change, he can’t have that and ap­prove Key­stone.”

“The only ques­tion now is the tim­ing of the an­nounce­ment,” the in­sider is quoted as say­ing.

But Lehrich con­tin­ued the push­back in a second tweet, ar­guing that the out­come of the on­go­ing re­view hasn’t been de­cided.

“Na­tion­al in­terest de­term­in­a­tion be­ing eval­u­ated at State De­part­ment in keep­ing with long­stand­ing tra­di­tion. Will be made on mer­its,” he said, re­peat­ing the stand­ard White House line and prac­tice of re­fer­ring ques­tions to State.

The State De­part­ment is lead­ing the fed­er­al re­view of Tran­sCanada’s pro­posed pipeline that would bring hun­dreds of thou­sands of bar­rels of oil daily from Al­berta’s oil sands pro­jects to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies.

The Rolling Stone story, which is broadly about Obama’s work on cli­mate change, spread like brush­fire on so­cial me­dia with­in hours of pub­lish­ing Wed­nes­day.

That un­der­scores the in­tense in­terest in the up-or-down de­cision Obama will ul­ti­mately make to settle one of the biggest en­vir­on­ment­al and lob­by­ing battles in years.

Even nor­mally wonky steps like a State De­part­ment en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact state­ment have promp­ted break­ing news alerts, a sign of just how fiercely the pro­cess is be­ing tracked.

The State De­part­ment an­nounced last week that it would ex­tend the dead­line for re­view of the per­mit, cit­ing an on­go­ing Neb­raska court battle over the state law used to ap­prove the route through that state. That will likely push the de­cision past the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions and guar­an­tees that for months to come, all sides will be clam­or­ing for a hint of the fi­nal call.

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