John Podesta, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, won't advise President Obama on the project when he starts his job next month as presidential counselor, the White House said Wednesday.
Referring to the administration's long-delayed decision on completing the pipeline, White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest said administration officials "want to make sure that this policy outcome reflects the president's views and [they] can approach it in an impartial way."
He said Mr. Podesta, who is being brought on board to instill better management in the West Wing, suggested to presidential Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that he "shouldn't work on the policymaking process related to" the pipeline.
Mr. Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, was an adviser to President Bill Clinton. Mr. Obama has turned to him for help after a rocky year that has included the botched launch of Obamacare and several high-profile scandals.
His new White House portfolio is expected to include energy and climate change, but Mr. Earnest said the controversial pipeline plan that's vehemently opposed by environmentalists won't be part of Mr. Podesta's workload.
"The comments and views that Mr. Podesta has expressed have been done without the benefit of or without the reality of him working directly for the president of the United States," Mr. Earnest said. "So in this case he felt it was most appropriate to basically send a signal early on that this is not something that would be part of his portfolio."
The pipeline project, which would transport oil from Canada to refineries in Texas, has been awaiting a decision from the State Department since early in Mr. Obama's first term. But Mr. Earnest said the matter eventually will return to the White House for further decision-making.
"The process will eventually shift to the White House," Mr. Earnest said. "There will be some White House involvement in that process. He [Mr. Podesta] felt like it was in the best interest of that policymaking process to not insert himself and his well-known views at the very end of that process."
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