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Obama Rejects Keystone XL After 7 Years of Drama, Debate, Protest

Today, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that would have connected Canada’s tar sands to refineries in Texas. The project became a symbol of the fight against climate change, making its rejection a huge victory for the “unprecedented coalition” of groups that came together to oppose it.

In his announcement, the President said that he agrees with the State Department’s decision that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the country’s national interests, nor would it make a meaningful long-term contribution to the economy.

"President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate. That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. “We're still awfully sad about Keystone south and are well aware that the next President could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration."

The President’s announcement speech highlighted that he believes the United States should indeed be a leader in climate change action but had stern words for both sides of the 7-year-long pipeline debate.

"This pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others," Obama said.

Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment in the decision, as did TransCanada, the firm behind the pipeline. TransCanada’s CEO said the company will review its options and potentially re-apply. Some Canadians, however, believe the Prime Minister should follow the president’s lead.

“President Obama just sent a message that Prime Minister Trudeau should heed — you can’t be a climate leader while supporting tar sands pipelines. Public opposition to Energy East and other tar sands pipelines gets stronger by the day and any reasonable climate plan is doomed to failure if the booming emissions from the tar sands aren't reigned in,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has a huge opportunity to lead the transition to diversify Canada's economy, reduce its emissions and lead the green transition. One hundred percent renewable is 100 percent possible we hope we now have the government leadership to make it happen.”

It has not been a good quarter for fossil fuels. In September, Royal Dutch Shell’s announced that it would abort its $7 billion mission to drill for oil in the Arctic after finding insufficient reserves. Last month, a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council showed U.S. coal use is down and renewable energy use is rising. And just yesterday, the New York Attorney General announced it is Exxon Mobil for decades of potentially misleading shareholders about the risks of climate change.

“This week we've seen more and more leaders recognize that to address climate change, we have to confront the fossil fuel industry and keep coal, oil, and gas in the ground. We saw senators calling on the Obama administration to stop giving away our coal, a Presidential candidate introduce a bill to end new fossil fuel leasing on our public lands and waters, and a state Attorney General take on Exxon’s outrageous climate denial,” said Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace. “We're on the cusp of a paradigm shift. Today, the movement is celebrating and tomorrow we're back to the hard work of building a just and sustainable world. If you're a fossil fuel dinosaur, the meteor is coming."

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