That was fast. President Obama announced today that his administration would not be approving TransCanada's proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision came two days after the administration denied TransCanada's request to delay a final decision. And on Wednesday I wrote:
If the pipeline were rejected before the COP 21 negotiations, it would further cement the feeling (shared by myself and others) that the Keystone XL fight is largely a symbolic one [...] Admittedly it's hard to quantify the extent to which a rejection of Keystone XL would bolster the US position on climate change during COP 21 negotiations, but if the administration is looking to maximize its leverage with other countries, a decision on the pipeline would be a bold move.
President Obama appears to share those views. On the symbolic nature of the Keystone XL fight:
“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”
The President was also forthcoming about the influence that COP 21 had on his decision:
Obama said the Keystone decision was important ahead of the summit to reinforce the United States’ global leadership and commitment to combating climate change. “Approving this project would have undercut that global leadership,” Obama said. “If we want to protect the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now.”
The NYT also points out that US-Canada relations may have played a large role in the timing of the decision:
The recent election of a new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, may also have influenced Mr. Obama’s decision. Mr. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, had pushed the issue as a top priority in the relationship between the United States and Canada, personally urging Mr. Obama to approve the project. Blocking the project during the Harper administration would have bruised ties with a crucial ally. While Mr. Trudeau also supports construction of the Keystone pipeline, he has not made the issue central to Canada’s relationship with the United States, and has criticized Mr. Harper for presenting Canada’s position as an ultimatum, while not taking substantial action on climate change related to the oil sands.
Here's the full announcement: