- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2015

President Obama on Friday ignored his own State Department’s research on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, dismissing the project and casting it as both economically unimportant and potentially harmful to the environment.

Speaking at a town-hall meeting at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., the president defended his recent veto of legislation that would have approved Keystone. Mr. Obama said he vetoed the bill for technical reasons and has not yet made a final decision on the project.

“Its proponents argue that it would be creating jobs in the United States. But the truth is … it will probably create a couple thousand construction jobs for a year or two,” he said. “We’re not going to authorize a pipeline that benefits largely a foreign company if it can’t be shown that it is safe and if it can’t be shown that, overall, it would not contribute to climate change.”

But Mr. Obama’s own State Department contradicts his claims. The department’s environmental review of Keystone already has determined the pipeline would not significantly increase greenhouse-gas emissions or contribute in a measurable way to climate change because, the federal government predicts, Canada will extract its oil and send it to market with or without the project.

Mr. Obama also seriously downplayed the State Department’s job-creation estimates.

Government analyses of Keystone found the project will support about 42,000 jobs, including about 16,000 jobs created as a direct result of the pipeline itself. About 4,000 of those would be construction jobs to physically build the pipeline.

Another 26,000 jobs would come as an “indirect” result of Keystone. Those jobs would include, for example, retail and service positions in areas around the construction zone.

TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, responded to Mr. Obama’s comments Friday evening, pointing directly to the State Department report and its sections on job-creation estimates and climate impact.

“We’re confident that somewhere in the five reports and 17,000 pages of U.S. State Department review over the past six-and-a-half years lies the answer to the comments made today,” company spokesman Mark Cooper said. “Keystone XL will be constructed safely and with minimal environmental and climate impact … Instead of sending billions of dollars overseas to regimes that are fundamentally opposed to American values, the oil that is needed can be sourced right here in North America and most of the money stays here, too.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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