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Texas landowner calls out Obama on Keystone XL fast-tracking

Posted Mar. 23, 2012 / Posted by: Kim Huynh

Yesterday, President Obama shamelessly stood in front of piles of Keystone XL pipe near Cushing, Oklahoma, touting his ‘all of the above’ strategy to solving our energy woes and the climate crisis. Scratch that last one—he didn’t mention the word ‘climate’ even once.

But he did issue a memorandum to federal agencies not only to build, but to expedite the approval of the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, stretching from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

Grist yesterday published an op-ed by David Daniel, a landowner in Winnsboro, East Texas, whose property would be split in half by the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline. David is the founder and president of STOP (Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines), a group of concerned citizens and affected landowners fighting the Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands oil pipelines in East Texas. Read David’s op-ed here.

In David’s words:

“My wife Clara and I bought our land, 20 acres of heavily wooded property with spring-fed creeks and century-old hardwoods, for its utter beauty and seclusion. I then personally built the house of our dreams, with the intention of raising our daughter, Naida, and living out my years with my wife.

This property was intended as a legacy for our 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter. My wife and I never imagined that we would live to see any part of it threatened by the greed of Big Oil and the shameful complicity of a president bending over backwards to accommodate that greed.”

The Keystone XL full pipeline and its southern segment are essentially one and the same—don’t let the administration’s recent re-branding of the southern segment to the ‘Cushing Pipeline’ fool you. The segmentation of the project into a southern and northern pipeline is TransCanada’s most recent scheme to build Keystone XL by employing piecemeal gimmicks to circumvent a rigorous, science-based environmental review process.  

As the key segment of the pipeline for the tar sands industry, the southern leg of Keystone XL would provide the crucial link to relieving the current glut of tar sands oil in the Midwest by piping it down to refineries and international shipping ports on the Gulf Coast for export. All the while, the project inflates the profits of Big Oil and vastly drives the expansion of climate-destabilizing tar sands development and consumption.  

And as David outlines in his op-ed, the dangers of this pipeline—as a whole or in parts—are many. Because tar sands oil is particularly toxic, compared to conventional crude oil, and because tar sands pipelines have an abysmal safety record , with a spill rate three times the national average for conventional oil in the Midwest, the southern segment puts communities at risk of devastating oil spills and pollution to air and drinking water. Experts say it’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ Keystone XL would spill.

That’s not even to mention the impact this pipeline—as the conduit to the continent’s biggest carbon bomb—would have on our shared climate. One has to note the morbid irony of President Obama’s sanctioning of a project that would mean ‘game over for the climate’ in Oklahoma, a state that set the all-time American record for the hottest summer by any state last summer—the average reading for June, July and August was 86.9 degrees, breaking the old record (also Oklahoma, this time 1934) by an astonishing 1.7 degrees.

In the end, I’ll echo David’s closing sentiment:

“Does the president stand with American families and their right for clean water, air, and land or does he stand with Big Oil in its never-ending quest to wring private profits from the tar sands? With his announcement today in Cushing to fast-track the approval process for the southern segment of the Keystone XL, it would seem that he’s already made his choice.”

Take Action: Stand in solidarity with David and all the communities on the front lines of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline by submitting a photo petition to President Obama here.

Take Action: Sign the petition to tell President Obama that cutting corners for Big Oil is inexcusable—and that he must reject Keystone XL altogether, not expedite it.

Read David’s op-ed in Grist.

Read Friends of the Earth’s interviews with David and other people on the front lines of the KXL fight from December 2010.

Photo of David, his wife Clara, and their daughter Naida on their property by Char Doonan.

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