Issues Stop Global Warming U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election.

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with an Omaha television station last week that he would make the ultimate decision about the pipeline, but sought to portray Thursday’s announcement as solely a State Department matter and not the result of political calculation.

“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

He said he remained committed to a politically balanced diet of increased domestic oil and gas production combined with incentives for the development of carbon-free alternatives.

While environmental groups welcomed their temporary victory on the pipeline project, some expressed skepticism about the president’s motives. Glenn Hurowitz, an environmental activist and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said the delay could leave the final decision in the hands of Mr. Obama’s Republican successor.

“This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year,” Mr. Hurowitz said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.”

Oil industry officials, some unions and the Canadian government said they were disappointed because the action delays what they call the economic benefits of the $7 billion project.

Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of the president’s decision, “This is all about politics and keeping a radical constituency, opposed to any and all oil and gas development, in the president’s camp in 2012. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers.”

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said, “While we are disappointed with the delay, we remain hopeful the project will be decided on its merits and eventually approved.”

TransCanada said that it would work with the State Department to find a new route, but warned that delay could kill the project, and with it tens of thousands of construction and related jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

“If Keystone XL dies,” said Russell K. Girling, the company’s chief executive, “Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long-term energy security.”

The Sand Hills region has a high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill. The State Department, which is responsible for approving transboundary pipelines, said that it expected that the review could be completed early in 2013.

Public officials and citizens in Nebraska have been vocal about the proposed pipeline route, not only because of fears about the Sand Hills region but because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican, has been pushing for the pipeline to be rerouted and recently called a special legislative session to focus on Keystone XL.

“I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard,” Mr. Heineman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Mr. Heineman said, adding he was not expecting the State Department’s decision. “I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline.”

The pipeline’s opponents in Nebraska hailed the decision as a pivotal victory, at least for now.

“This is a game changer for our state,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that has been leading efforts to block the pipeline. “We’ve been fighting this every day and night for almost two years.”

Kerri-Ann Jones in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said the agency’s decision to look for alternative routes was sparked by the significant outcry from Nebraska residents and officials.

“What we’re hearing from the public and from comments across the nation is the concerns about it going through this fragile landscape,” she said of the proposed pipeline. “We’ve heard this loud and clear.”

Ms. Jones said that the previous environmental review of Keystone XL had not considered routes around the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, but rather routes that circumvented the state completely. New alternative routes for Keystone XL would still pass through Nebraska, but would seek to avoid or minimize any effect on the Sand Hills, she said.

The State Department’s inspector general announced on Monday that he was looking into charges of a conflict of interest and improper political influence in the preparation of the project’s environmental impact statement. Some have faulted the department for assigning the study to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Opponents of the project have organized two large protests outside the White House, including one on Sunday in which several thousand protesters encircled the mansion demanding that the president kill the pipeline. Earlier this year more than a thousand protesters were arrested in large demonstrations across from the White House.

Link to original article from The New York Times

John M. Broder reported from Washington and Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

 

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Keystone XL: Obama urged by Democrat backers to reject pipeline

Keystone XL: Obama urged by Democrat backers to reject pipeline

Letter signed by 150 prominent donors says project is the most important environmental decision of presidency The biggest backers of the Democratic causes urged Barack Obama on Friday to take historic action on climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. In a letter seen by the...

Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian 10 May 2013 Hits:908 SGW Articles

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Fact vs. Fiction: How Renewables Outshine Fracking

Fact vs. Fiction: How Renewables Outshine Fracking

Just how real is the fracking "boom" when compared with other developments within the energy industry—specifically the exponential growth of renewable energy? The practice of hydraulic horizontal fracturing or  fracking to extract natural gas from the shale beds of the U.S. began, for all practical purposes, in...

Jay Warmke | EcoWatch 28 Apr 2013 Hits:1029 SGW Articles

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Sandra Steingraber Issues Statement Before Being Led to Jail: "Act of Civil Disobedience I…

Sandra Steingraber Issues Statement Before Being Led to Jail:

Steingraber and two others faced a judge yesterday after protesting the industrialization by oil and gas companies of the pristine Finger Lakes region. This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org. In an act of civil disobedience which she called a “last resort” after having taken “every legal...

Alison Rose Levy | AlterNet 20 Apr 2013 Hits:1017 SGW Articles

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Robin Hood Tax, Not Corporate Greed, Should be Focus of Climate Finance Meetings, Say Acti…

Robin Hood Tax, Not Corporate Greed, Should be Focus of Climate Finance Meetings, Say Activists

IPS joined other members of the U.S. Robin Hood Tax campaign in Washington DC, where officials from the finance and climate ministries of select developed countries met to discuss how to mobilize private sector investment in developing countries to address climate change. Chanting, "Human need,...

Lacy MacAuley and Janet Redman | IPS 11 Apr 2013 Hits:661 SGW Articles

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Americans Against Fracking against Moniz for Energy secretary

Americans Against Fracking against Moniz for Energy secretary

From Food & Water Watch: Washington, D.C.— As the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee conducts confirmation hearings to fill the position of Secretary of Energy, Americans Against Fracking, a broad-based coalition of public health, consumer, labor and environmental groups, today sent the committee a letter...

Bob Downing | Ohio.com 10 Apr 2013 Hits:768 SGW Articles

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Stop Global Warming IOT Calls

  • 9-13-2014 NYC Climate March Planning Call

    9-13-2014 NYC Climate March Planning Call

  • NYC Climate Rally Planning Call

    NYC Climate Rally Planning Call 9-3-2014

  • 09-02-2014 Stop Global Warming

    Listen in this month to special guest Rev. Lennox Yearwood as he speaks about the People's Climate March and why this is the biggest issue of our times and this generation. Great conversation, updates, and much more.

  • 08-13-2014 Stop Global Warming

    Listen to this month's call with special guests Sara Shor, the US National Organizer for 350.org and Mark Schlosberg, Organizing Director at Food & Water Watch. We will be discussing the Global Frackdown, what the carbon tax really means, the...

  • 07-16-2014 Stop Global Warming

    Listen in this month as we review Rep. McDermott’s HR 4754 - Managed Carbon Price Act of 2014, make plans for the Sept 20 and 21 Global Day of Action, consider changing our standing meeting date, along with some open discussion. There will...

  • 06-18-2014 Stop Global Warming

    Listen to this incredibly informative call with RL Miller, a frequent and popular blogger on climate change; the elected chair of California Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus; and attorney who keeps her own chickens. Miller has very...

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