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Harper Reacts to Keystone XL Postponement; Obama Admin Defends It

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed disappointment at the U.S.’s decision to postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, even as TransCanada studied alternate routes and U.S. President Barack Obama assured the northern leader that they would meet in Washington in December.

The fallout took place on the sidelines of the APEC summit in the wake of the November 10 announcement by the White House that the fate of the Keystone XL proposal would have to wait until after the 2012 presidential election.

Immediately after the U.S. State Department announced that the pipeline must be rerouted and would undergo more environmental reviews, Harper met with Obama at the APEC summit and suggested that Canada would continue to push for U.S. approval of the $7 billion Keystone XL project but would also be looking to places like Asia as a market for its oil.

“This highlights why Canada must increase its efforts to ensure it can supply its energy outside the U.S. and into Asia in particular,” Harper told the Associated Press. “Canada will step up its efforts in that regard, and I communicated that clearly to the president.”

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The U.S. said it wants to create jobs but not at the expense of the health of children. Obama also made it clear to Harper that the government wants to keep the pipeline out of environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska, the AP said.

“Any new proposed routes will be subject to the thorough, rigorous and transparent review process we have undertaken throughout,” Deputy White House Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters on November 14. "The process requires a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the new proposed route. Given the process, we cannot provide a specific end date, other than to say that based on the total mileage of potential alternative routes that would need to be reviewed, we anticipate the evaluation could conclude as early as first quarter of 2013."

The President's position, said Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest to reporters on November 14, “we are not going to be in a position where we are going to sacrifice the public health and safety of our children just to get a couple thousand jobs. What the President believes is important is that we need to balance those competing interests, that we need to pursue opportunities to create jobs—there are a number of ways to do that. The President has laid out the American Jobs Act. But there are a number of things that we can do to balance the interest in terms of creating jobs but also protecting the health and welfare and safety of our children."