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Environmental and progressive groups slam Obama's expediting of southern segment of Keystone XL

Posted Mar. 21, 2012 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

President is trumpeting dirty tar sands oil pipeline that will worsen climate crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama's administration today touted an expedited review for the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, despite widespread public opposition to the project due to the severe risks it poses to the climate, our air, water and wildlife, and indigenous and landowner rights.

The Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action and Friends of the Earth jointly slammed the administration's announcement, which came ahead of the president's visit to a TransCanada pipe yard near Cushing, Oklahoma, that it will issue a memorandum to expedite federal environmental review for the southern portion of the pipeline. As the key link of the Keystone XL pipeline for the tar sands industry, the southern segment will transport the world's dirtiest oil, tar sands oil, from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries with much of it destined for global export.

Becky Bond, Political Director at CREDO Action, said:

"In expediting the southern portion of Keystone XL, President Obama is trying to have it both ways. It is deeply disappointing that he can't even hold to the minimum standard for a full environmental review that he invoked in rejecting the full pipeline in January. Promoting the export portion of this pipeline will lead to higher gas prices in the US and to the worst climate impacts of the pipeline. The President needs to prove that his initial rejection of Keystone XL wasn't simply a ploy to placate the environmental voters who dared to hold him to his own rhetoric about the need for real leadership on climate and our fossil fuel dependence."

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said:

"The Gulf Coast leg would add to the fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we critically need to transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid climate catastrophe. Just like Keystone I, the Gulf Coast leg of Keystone XL will spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, American burying beetle, interior least tern, and Arkansas River shiner. The president's support for this pipeline is troubling. Keystone XL may be a boon to Big Oil companies in the exporting business but those profits will come at a stiff price for our land, water, wildlife and climate."

Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

"In expediting the southern leg of Keystone XL, President Obama has gone 180 degrees in the wrong direction in less than 180 days. It's inexcusable that the administration is cutting corners to support building this dirty tar sands oil pipeline in parts. The president cannot fulfill his promise to protect the climate and transition us to 21st century clean energy, while bending over backwards to help big oil companies tap the continent's biggest carbon bomb. The southern segment would threaten our heartland with spills that pollute our air and water and hurt local economies."

According to TransCanada, the southern leg will be used for exporting diluted bitumen -- tar sands oil -- after TransCanada tries again for a Presidential Permit to build other legs of Keystone XL that connect to the Alberta tar sands.

An existing tar sands pipeline called Keystone 1 has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons. Another tar sands pipeline spilled more than 1 million gallons of tar-sands crude in the Kalamazoo River. The Cushing-to-the-Gulf southern leg of Keystone XL will almost certainly spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for a number of endangered species.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed unprecedented opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, making it the biggest environmental test for the administration ahead of the 2012 elections. Last fall, more than 12,000 people surrounded the White House and 1,253 people were arrested in front of it in opposition to the pipeline. However, TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the pipeline, has vowed to reapply for a permit and the president today pledged to expedite the environmental review process.

Contacts:

Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org or (503) 484-7495

Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, ktrout@foe.org or (202) 222-0722

Elijah Zarlin, CREDO Action, ezarlin@credomobile.com or (415) 369 2014

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