New Obama adviser won't advise on Keystone decision
December 11th, 2013
06:11 PM ET
9 years ago

New Obama adviser won't advise on Keystone decision

Washington (CNN) – John Podesta, the Democratic wise man brought on by President Barack Obama to assist on health care and climate issues, won't advise the President when he decides whether or not to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The decision to abstain from the Keystone decision-making was Podesta's suggestion, the White House said Wednesday, and was made because the former Clinton chief of staff has made his opposition to the project known.

"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. So in this case, he felt it was most appropriate to basically send a signal early on that this is not something that will be part of his portfolio," Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, adding that Podesta relayed his decision to Denis McDonough, Obama's chief of staff.

Podesta, who headed Obama's 2008 transition team and most recently led the liberal Center for American Progress, has openly criticized the extraction of oil from Canadian tar sands, including during a 2010 keynote speech for a progressive Canadian organization.

"I question the hurry with which the State Department has chosen to decide whether or not to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline slated to reach from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico," he said in the speech. "There are enough legitimate questions about this pipeline-how soon it will be needed, its design and safety, and its potential impacts on important ecosystems along its 2,000 mile length-to take a more deliberate approach."

A decision on whether or not to approve the full Keystone KL pipeline is expected from the Obama administration by the spring after the State Department completes a review of the project. It falls to that agency to conduct the study since the pipeline would cross the U.S. border with Canada.

Last March, the State Department said expanding the Keystone pipeline would have no significant environmental effect, but stopped short of saying it should be approved. They're currently revising that report.

Earnest said on Wednesday that while the review is currently underway at the State Department, White House officials have been consulting in the process. Podesta, he said, would not be among those officials with a say in the outcome because he's already been so outspoken on the issue.

"These are views that have been strongly expressed and have gotten a lot of attention. And there's no doubt that he's expressed his views on a range of other things, too. Many of those things are frankly less controversial and aren't as much of a lightning rod as this particular issue has become," Earnest said.

Many of Obama's most ardent Democratic supporters have vocally opposed the Keystone pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas. Environmentalists argue the chances for environmental disaster are higher since the oil extracted from tar sands is dirtier that other forms of petroleum.

The State Department has predicted the Keystone pipeline would create 5,000 jobs, a fact heralded by the project's supporters. They also point out Keystone's construction would allow the United States to import less oil from the Middle East.

Filed under: Obama administration
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. CryBabies

    Podesta....Window dressing for a deeply troubled administration.

    December 11, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  2. rs

    Keystone XL is a loser. There have already been 35 significant leaks on the Canadian side- so it is obviously a shoddy, low quaility environmental disaster; it is going to affect thousands of American land owners who will either lose property to the pipeline, or have it cross their land against their will; the pipeline does nothing for America's economic or energy independence as it is all destined for foreign markets (why the Kochs support it); as it is the dirtiest oil in the world, it will be a high pollution problem for the US if it is refined here, and it doesn't contain even a percentage of jobs the the GOP claims.

    December 11, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. RonL

    We should not do the KEYSTONE pipeline. The oil is just too dirty that is why the people of Canada are fighting the oil company as well. LET CHINA buy it, if they can't learn from their current pollution problems, they aren't nearly as smart as people think. The recent pictures in the news shows they have an air pollution situation that is out of control. Maybe as more and more of the population develops respiratory problems they well rethink their accelerated growth plans.

    December 11, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  4. S. B. Stein

    If we put as much money into new energy R&D as we did into the current fossil fuel infrastructure, then we would have safe and secure micro fission power plants as well as a smart electrical grid that integrates solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. We need to move beyond fossil fuels.

    December 11, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  5. Liz the First

    I hope Obama listens to the scientists and not the State Dept. on this issue. the Keystone will NOT make the US any less energy dependent because the oil will be sold elsewhere. and a pipeline of the filthiest oil running near our aquifers will be a prime target for a terrorist attack! the environmental consequences of all that tar sand oil being burned are devastating. this would be like the human race putting a gun to the earth's head and pulling the trigger. if Obama cares as much as he says he does about the environment, there is no way he can approve this pipeline!

    December 11, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. truth hurts but reality bites

    Obama has almost no friends left so he will not be approving the Keystone pipeline. He really could care less about the unemployed in this country. He takes more pride in the huge food stamp roles under his administration. Jobs only interfere with his desire to get people dependent on the government.

    December 12, 2013 03:01 am at 3:01 am |