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Opposition to Keystone XL Pipeline and Tar Sands Oil Getting Under Big Oil's Skin

Posted Dec. 7, 2010 / Posted by: KTrout

The campaign to stop the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline has been growing as communities that would be impacted by the pipeline team up with groups like Friends of the Earth, grassroots activists across the country, and decisionmakers in Washington, D.C. to halt this environmental disaster in the making.

The Keystone XL pipeline: A danger to people and our climate

If approved by the Obama administration, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport toxic tar sands oil -- the world’s dirtiest variety of oil -- 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. The pipeline would put communities in danger of oil spills. It would also make climate change worse and harm the health of people living near refineries:  compared to normal oil, tar sands oil emits more heat-trapping and toxic air pollution when it’s produced and refined. In Canada, indigenous people living near tar sands oil extraction sites are already suffering from high rates of cancer. (You can learn more about the pipeline at www.foe.org/keystone-xl-pipeline.)

Senators speak out for a rigorous environmental review

NY Pipeline ProtestSince our campaign update in August, influential senators have publicly raised questions about the pipeline’s safety and potential impacts on people and the environment. Nebraska Senators Mike Johanns (R) and Ben Nelson (D) both sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in charge of the Obama administration’s review of the pipeline, to convey their concern that oil spills could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer. The Aquifer, which would be crossed by the pipeline, is a key source of drinking water for Nebraskans and others in the Plains states.

The letters from Senators Johanns and Nelson were the initial strikes in a growing crescendo of criticism from senators and advocates over the way Secretary Clinton is handling the Keystone XL pipeline review process. On October 15, Secretary Clinton remarked that she was “inclined” to approve the Keystone pipeline despite the fact that her agency has not yet finalized a legally required environmental impact assessment -- and that the draft assessment received a failing grade from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eleven senators signed onto a letter penned by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urging Secretary Clinton to thoroughly consider the dangers the pipeline poses -- and hold back judgment on the pipeline until the State Department completes a comprehensive analysis. Sen. Leahy’s leadership on this issue is especially important because he chairs a Senate subcommittee that control’s the State Department’s purse strings, and he has the power to hold the agency accountable for putting Big Oil’s interests before those of the American public.

Friends of the Earth and Allies Dial Up Pressure on the Obama Administration

Friends of the Earth amplified the senators’ rebuke of Secretary Clinton’s biased remarks by bringing a coalition of environmental and public interest organizations together, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, Greenpeace, and Plains Justice, to call on Secretary Clinton to recuse herself from the pipeline decisionmaking process.

NY Pipeline ProtestAt the same time that we’ve dialed up the pressure on the Obama administration from within Washington, D.C., grassroots activists have dialed up their opposition to the pipeline from outside the capital. In September, activists greeted President Obama at a Democratic fundraiser in New York City, demanding that he take a stand against the Keystone pipeline and live up to his campaign promises of clean energy solutions for America. Community activists on both ends and all along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline are also organizing in their local areas to stop the pipeline.

Through these efforts, we’ve continued to keep the Keystone XL pipeline off the fast track and thwart Big Oil’s plans for a swift rubber stamp. The next big decision confronting the Obama administration is whether to invite more input from the public on the impacts this pipeline could have before moving forward on a final judgment. Big Oil, of course, is pushing Secretary Clinton to shut our voices out of the process. With a decision on more public comments expected before the start of the new year, Friends of the Earth has joined a coalition of 20 groups to air TV, online and radio ads that call on President Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and “prevent another oil disaster.”

Take Action

You can help ratchet up the pressure right now by sending an email to President Obama and telling him to stop the pipeline and protect communities and our climate from this ecological disaster in the making.  

  

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