GOP lawmakers decry Obama's pipeline rejection

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas lawmakers denounced President Barack Obama's decision Wednesday to reject a proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline, while environmental groups praised the move as a step toward creating clean energy jobs and decreasing U.S. dependence on oil.

The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline was designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada's Alberta region through the center of the country to refineries in the Gulf Coast, and many Texas lawmakers have said the project would create hundreds, and possibly thousands, of jobs in the Lone Star State.

Environmental groups have disputed the job numbers, and said the risks of spills along the pipeline's proposed route were too great.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who is also running for U.S. Senate, said Obama's decision was an indication of his failure to lead the country.

"President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline signals that he is putting the needs of special interest environmental groups over the needs of everyday Americans," Dewhurst said in a statement. "Preventing the Keystone XL pipeline project from moving forward not only stops thousands of jobs from being created, but it threatens America's energy security."

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat, said he was disappointed and that Obama should have conditionally approved the project while TransCanada, the Canadian company seeking the permit, worked to improve its plans and find a new route through environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.

"Any further delays by the administration only prolong our dependence on oil from nations that are hostile to us and could encourage the Canadians to sell their product elsewhere," Green said in a statement.

But Obama said it was impossible for the U.S. State Department to conduct a thorough review of the $7 billion project under the 60-day deadline imposed by Congress — which gave him until Feb. 21 to make a decision. In his announcement, Obama said he was still interested in creating a pipeline that would bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma — where the current line stops — to refineries in Texas.

A short time later, TransCanada said it was not entirely surprised by the announcement and planned to reapply for the permit after finding a new route through Nebraska that would avoid environmentally delicate areas, which was one of the obstacles to the project as it was originally proposed.

Environmental groups in Texas praised Obama's decision. Some noted that the tar sands — an especially thick, almost solid, crude oil — would further pollute Houston's air by forcing refineries to deal with such a dirty product. Others pointed out that the route of the pipeline brought it dangerously close to key aquifers, rivers and lakes in the state that are used for drinking water.

"When Congressional Republicans forced a 60-day decision on the Keystone XL's presidential permit, they took the option of a thorough review away from President Obama and the U.S. State Department," Trevor Lovell, environmental program coordinator for Texas' Public Citizen, said in a statement. "Today's rejection of the permit application was the only sensible decision they could make."

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