Tag Archives: tarsands

Obama vows to veto a Keystone XL bill

President Barack Obama has pledged to veto a bill to force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The White House announcement came as the new Republican-led Congress was sworn in, with GOP leaders promising to make Keystone a top priority in the early part of the session.

“It’s encouraging to see President Obama stand up to the bullies in Congress who want to ram this project through,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Keystone would be a disaster for our climate and wildlife, so here’s hoping this is his first step toward killing this project once and for all.”

The president already said he won’t approve Keystone XL if it significantly exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution. The administration’s statement on Jan. 6 sets up a likely showdown with Congress.

“This is the moment where we need President Obama to stand strong and on the right side of history,” Galvin said. “Keystone and projects like it have driven us into the climate crisis. The first step toward getting us out of this hole is to stop digging deeper.”

On a daily basis, the proposed pipeline would carry up to 35 million gallons of oil strip-mined from Canada’s “tar sands.” The pipeline would cross the Midwest and deliver oil to the Gulf of Mexico, where opponents say much of it would be exported to other countries.

Along the way the pipeline would cut through rivers, streams and prime wildlife habitat for at least 12 threatened and endangered species, including whooping cranes and pallid sturgeon, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Strip-mining of oil from Alberta’s tar sands also is destroying tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluting hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space.

Extraction and refinement of tar sands oil produces twice as many greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil and represents a massive new source of fossil fuels that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid a climate catastrophe.

TransCanada’s existing Keystone I tar sands pipeline has reportedly leaked at least 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010, including one spill of 24,000 gallons. The State Department’s environmental reviews have pointed out that spills from Keystone XL are likely to occur, estimating that there could be as many as about 100 spills over the course of the pipeline’s lifespan.

350.org founder Bill McKibben, responding to the White House announcement, said, “This is a tribute to the millions of people who have made this one of the center pieces of a fast growing climate movement. So far their desire to protect the land and climate have been a match for the fountains of dirty money that constitute the oil industry’s only real argument.”

Rainforest Action Network’s climate program director, Amanda Starbuck, commented, “This is a testament to the dedication and resolve of millions of grassroots activists who have for years fought to stop this pipeline, against all odds. Together this movement has marched, written letters, sat in at the White House and along the route of the pipeline, and self-organized a large-scale network ready to do whatever it takes to win a rejection on Keystone. It’s an important day for the climate and for communities when the President decides to side with the people over the fossil fuel corporations who are wrecking our climate for profit.”

Rainforest Action Network has been fighting the KXL pipeline since 2009. With partners CREDO and the Other 98 percent, RAN organized the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance Network, which has trained thousands of people in civil disobedience. To date, almost 100,000 people have signed the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, and have committed to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the pipeline.

Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL

The U.S. Department of State notified eight federal agencies that it will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Agencies, according to the State Department announcement, need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court, which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.

State said it would use the extended period to “review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7.”

The agency consultation process is not starting over.

The process is ongoing, and the State Department and other agencies are continuing to work in assessing the permit application.

The permit process will conclude “once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” according to the announcement.

A permit is needed for the pipeline because it would cross the U.S. border from Canada.

The announcement trigged a flood of comments, especially from the environmental community, which has been fighting the proposal through litigation, petitions and demonstrations. 

Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for the climate and energy program at Friends of the Earth, said, “This decision shows the power of the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline by the people of Nebraska and activists all across the country.”

He continued, “Whether President Obama makes a decision on the pipeline next month or next year, Keystone XL clearly fails the president’s climate test. This delay shows that TransCanada will not succeed in bullying their way to approval, bypassing established democratic procedures. Further analysis will only confirm how risky this pipeline is to the health of the American economy, environment, people, and our climate.”

CREDO, a national progressive group working to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, also responded.

After expressing disappointment that the administration hasn’t rejected the permit application for the pipeline, Elijah Zarlin, CREDO’s senior campaign manager, said, “Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project — which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL.”

And at 350.org, co-founder Bill McKibben also expressed disappointment that the administration continues to consider the issue instead of deny the permit: “It’s as if our leaders simply don’t understand that climate change is happening in real time — that it would require strong, fast action to do anything about it. While we’re at it, the State Department should also request that physics delay heat-trapping operations for a while, and that the El Nino scheduled for later this spring be pushed back to after the midterms. One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”