White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough punted on a series of questions regarding the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after a State Department report this week found that its construction would have no significant impact on climate or the environment.
McDonough spoke with NBC’s David Gregory on Sunday about the pipeline, which would allow oil and natural gas from Canada to be piped into the United States for export and domestic sale. Environmental groups have come out hard against the pipeline, and President Barack Obama delayed its approval for five years while he awaited an environmental impact study.
That study, conducted by the State Department, concluded on Friday. It found that the pipeline would have a negligible effect on the environment or climate change, contradicting activists who have warned of spills and emission increases for years.
But the Obama White House still seems reluctant — if not outright opposed — to approve the project:
MCDONOUGH: He laid out his view on this last summer, which is that, his view is that if this is to go forward it should not significantly exacerbate the climate crisis in this country.
GREGORY: Didn’t the State Department answer that, and said it won’t?
MCDONOUGH: The Friday report is an important input into that process. We’ll hear from other cabinet secretaries.
McDonough then tried to shift topics, pointing to America’s uptick in oil production and noting the “terrible” effects of climate change:
MCDONOUGH: So, we’re going to obviously resolve the Keystone question, but that’s one in a much bigger issue that we’re focused on —
GREGORY: Fair enough, but I’m focused on it so just indulge me. What would stop him from saying yes at this point, given his own State Department saying there’s not a big impact on the climate from doing this?
MCDONOUGH: He’s been very clear that he’s going to insulate this process from politics. Washington loves the politics —
GREGORY: I didn’t ask about politics. You got a State Department study.
MCDONOUGH: And we have one department with a study. Now we have other expert agencies, the EPA and many others — the Energy Department — that have an opportunity to look at this and make their determinations. The president wants to protect their ability to do that [and] make this decision based on the best analysis and most sound science.
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