White House Disputes Report on Keystone XL Decision

National Journal

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.