With just 48 hours notice, thousands of protesters showed up in handfuls or hundreds Monday at some 280 locales across the nation for candlelit vigils in opposition to building the 1,179-mile northern leg of the pipeline, which is designed to carry 300 million barrels of tar sands petroleum each year from Alberta to Texas. Ben Goad and Laura Barron-Lopez write:
Environmental groups are warning President Obama that his liberal base might stay home on Election Day if he approves the Keystone XL oil pipeline. [...]Pipeline foes are up against powerful forces, however, the leading ones being the oil industry itself. A majority in Congress, with an ample cohort of Democrats, and a majority of Americans also back building the pipeline, as revealed in various polls. That includes one in September from the Pew Center for the People & the Press, which showed 65 percent of Americans in favor and 30 percent opposed. Among the Democrats, there is a split with 54 percent of liberals opposed and 58 percent of moderates and conservatives in support.
But critics say approval of the project could sow liberal discontent and hurt Democratic chances in 2014—including a host of contests that will likely decide who controls the Senate during the final years of the Obama White House.
“It is very likely that there will be negative consequences for Democrats if Keystone were approved,” said Kate Colarulli, the associate director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign. “This is a tremendous opportunity to protect the climate and build the Democratic base if Obama rejects Keystone XL.”
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In Washington, as Barron-Lopez reports:
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Keystone XL advocates in the Senate have nearly enough votes to push through legislation that would set a hard deadline for President Obama to make a decision on the project. [...]Hoeven also said that one option might be to tie approval of the project to raising the debt ceiling.
"The key is to have 60 votes, so if negotiating that timeline makes it happen, then I'm going to leave it open," said Hoeven, adding that more than 55 lawmakers have committed to voting on a deadline measure.
If a deadline were passed, it would probably not be set to expire before the 90-day interagency review of the SEIS. Eight federal agencies will be evaluating the State Department's assessment of the pipeline's impact. One of those, the Environmental Protection Agency, criticized the adequacy of a previous version of the SEIS.