“Environmentalists have decided that enough is enough,” says Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona). “Keystone is about more than one pipeline. It is about establishing once and for all whether we have moved on from the disastrous Bush-Cheney view of environmental policy. … Anyone who believes it is unfair to make Keystone a litmus test of Mr. Obama’s environmental record is looking at recent history backward.”
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and might have been President Obama’s choice for Secretary of the Interior if Obama were a progressive Democrat. From his February 26 op-ed (Obama’s Pipeline) in the New York Times:
WHEN I was elected to Congress in 2002, George W. Bush was president and big business wrote environmental policy. We all remember Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force — a who’s who of mining and oil interests — and the administration’s constant questioning of climate science.
President Obama won the White House by running as an agent of change: change from Mr. Bush’s way of doing business with business, and change from Washington’s habitual corporate favoritism.
But that record is still being written, and it is heading in the wrong direction. …
If E.R.M.’s decision that Keystone does not pose any environmental risks is allowed to stand, it will not just move Keystone closer to an unjustified approval; it will re-establish the Bush-era habit of tipping the scales in favor of corporations that want special treatment.
Earlier in the KXL environmental assessment process, some of the leading climate scientists sent letters to President Obama calling on him to deny the permit, in the national interest and in the interest of the planet (Letter from scientists calling on Obama to block the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline):
The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit. It takes a lot of energy to extract and refine this resource into useable fuel, and the mining is environmentally destructive. Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline system that would practically guarantee extensive exploitation of this resource.
When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy—and that we leave the tar sands in the ground. …
If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is “in the national interest.” As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it’s not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest. [emphasis added]
The Presidential Permit review process for the Keystone XL is now focused on whether the proposed pipeline serves the ‘national interest’. A 30-day public comment period will close on March 7, 2014. During this period, members of the public are encouraged to submit comments on the national interest determination here.
Without waiting for the Obama administration to decide, and without assuming that Obama can be trusted to do the right thing on climate change, a student-led coalition called XL Dissent has called for a demonstration against the pipeline to be held in Washington, DC, this Sunday, March 2 – including a civil disobedience action at the White House:
The decision on Keystone XL will be the definitive test of President Obama’s character and integrity. Moreover, it will be a crucial arbiter of his legacy…
Last July in a speech at Georgetown University, President Obama said, “And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did.”
We are asking that question of the President today.
We ask, because President Obama’s willingness to govern in an environmentally responsible manner has been called into question. At Georgetown, President Obama promised to review the pipeline based on whether it would have a significant impact on the climate. But in the months since that speech, the State Department has continued to rely on ERM (a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute) to run the environmental review of the pipeline. That’s despite the fact that ERM has a close business relationship with TransCanada. And that it was later caught red-handed for lying to the State Department in order to cover up those business connections.
President Obama has indeed made several responsible choices, such as increasing the mileage standards for cars. But he has also made some disastrous ones. He opened vast swaths of Western lands for coal mining, repeatedly endorsed an “all-of-the-above” energy approach, and even supported the Southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.
We know that if we sit back and trust him to independently make the right choices, we will be doing so at our peril.
We have therefore decided to act. Rejecting Keystone XL will help keep the tar sands where they belong, buried safely in the ground. It will protect communities that are already struggling to survive. And it will send a resounding message that the days of unchecked fossil fuel recklessness are coming to an end.
So here is our plan:
On March 2nd, throngs of young people from around the country will converge at Georgetown University to demand of President Obama that he follow through on the promise he made there during his speech. From Georgetown, we will march to the White House. When we get there we will have a huge rally featuring speakers from communities that are at the frontlines of the fight against tar sands oil.
We will proceed to engage in an act of peaceful civil disobedience at the White House gate.
We wish them the best for a good turnout and successful action.
XL Dissent: Join us in Washington DC March 1-2 to tell President Obama to reject the northern leg of Keystone XL and protect us from a future defined by climate chaos.
On Keystone XL, John Kerry, and the global interest (February 17)
McKibben on Keystone XL, the Obama problem, and fossil fuel divestment (October 30, 2013)