In a sign of stiffening resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, leaders of 25 environmental and other groups sent a letter to President Obama Tuesday reiterating their opposition to the project and urging him not to approve it. In June 2011, writer and environmental activist Bill McKibben, the poet Wendell Berry, climatologist Jim Hansen and actor Danny Glover persuaded 10 environmental groups to sign a letter to the president objecting to the pipeline.
While it has drawn intense opposition over the past several years, including arrests for civil disobedience at the White House and elsewhere, the proposed pipeline has been mostly out of the headlines the past few months as the State Department continues to evaluate its potential environmental impacts. Completing that process could take until the first months of 2014. Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, the president can only approve a permit for it if he decides it is in the national interest to do so.
Among the groups signing the letter are the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Action, CREDO, 350.0rg, Public Citizen and the Indigenous Environmental Network. In part, the letter states:
We are pleased to hear reports that Canadian officials may be considering new policies to mitigate global warming pollution from the oil and gas sectors. [...]
However, on behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we oppose
any deal-making in return for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Our rationale is
simple. Building Keystone XL will expand production in the tar sands, and that reality is not compatible with serious efforts to battle climate change.
While the tar sands industry makes claims of reducing the intensity of their emissions
profile, in fact the absolute carbon pollution from the tar sands is rapidly increasing. The [Stephen] Harper government previously promised to take action to cut pollution across industry, but never followed through with its 2008 plan. Carbon pollution from the tar sands is now projected to be twice as high in 2020 as envisioned under that plan. Simple arithmetic shows that the only way to reduce emissions from the tar sands is to cap expansion where it is now and reduce production over the coming years.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club who has been arrested for protesting the pipeline, has written his own letter, cited
by the Washington Post
"Mr. President, please do not make a bilateral agreement approving the Keystone XL based on the government of Canada’s mitigation promises," Brune wrote. "While this may seem like a generous offer, Canada simply cannot mitigate the carbon pollution from the pipeline; those emissions would simply be too big. Keystone XL would be directly responsible for the equivalent annual emissions of 51 coal-fired power plants or 37.7 million cars. As a point of comparison, Canada has about 26 million cars on the road."
Please drop below the fold to read more about resistance to the pipeline.
In an interview with the Post's Juliet Eilperin, Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said: "The intensity out there has not diminished one bit. If anything, the willingness of people to go to jail over this is expanding."
For several years, groups of indigenous people in Canada and the United States, farmers and ranchers from Nebraska to Texas, a number of environmental organizations and rank-and-file citizens have made it clear through various actions, including civil obedience that has led to thousands of arrests, that they want President Obama to reject construction of the northern section of the pipeline by TransCanada Corp. The 36-inch conduit would connect with other segments to carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The southern section from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the gulf is nearing completion.
If Obama rejects the pipeline, it would be a stunning break from the business-as-usual, all-of-the-above approach to energy that has seen the administration take significant strides in boosting conservation and renewable energy sources while simultaneously backing an expansion of oil drilling on- and off-shore. That all-of-the-above approach has been supremely frustrating for environmental advocates who say it ignores the reality of climate change.
Rejection of the pipeline would indubitably create an uproar among its backers, who include a majority in Congress, with numerous Democrats on board. But the letter from environmental groups is indicative of a growing solidarity that might generate an uprising in case the pipeline is approved. More than 75,000 Americans have signed CREDO's Pledge of Resistance committing them to peaceful civil disobedience and arrests if Keystone XL gets a thumbs-up.