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Reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all

Michael Marx | Sierra Club - February 11th 2014

Read this blog post on the originating site

The State Department's Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline, released last week, backpedaled on State's earlier claim that the pipeline would have no significant climate impact. The report concluded that Keystone XL could create climate pollution equivalent to nearly six million cars, or eight coal-fired power plants.

Now President Obama must choose whether to fight climate disruption or expand dirty fossil fuels like tar sands. The Keystone XL pipeline fails the basic climate test. Climate disruption, water pollution, property taken by eminent domain, and poisoned air are not in the interest of the American people. Last June, the president vowed he would not approve the pipeline if it would "significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." He should now reject the tar sands pipeline once and for all.

The president has more than enough evidence on carbon pollution, drinking water threats, public health threats, and safety threats to reject the pipeline. The facts speak for themselves: tar sands are toxic, corrosive, difficult to clean up, and carbon-intensive. Tar sands are the dirtiest form of crude oil in the world, and we just don't need them. They should stay in the ground.

There is a peculiar idea in American policy circles that Canadian tar sands production will be expanded at the same rate whether the Keystone XL pipeline is built or not. This view is not shared by Canadian government and industry officials, who observe the industry on a daily basis.

You don't need to listen to those who oppose the pipeline to know this. Experts, industry leaders, and economists have known that the Keystone XL pipeline is the industry's best hope to expand tar sands production and profits.

Barclays Bank said that "approval of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline ... remains the most significant catalyst for improving takeaway bottlenecks, in our view.' RBS Dominion Securities of Toronto warned that as much as a third of oil sands [the Canadian term for tar sands] -- 450,000 barrels a day -- could be put on hold between 2015 and 2017 if the Keystone pipeline is not approved by President Obama. Ralph Glass, economist and vice-president of AJM Petroleum Consultants, said that, "Unless we get increased market access with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck."

The International Energy Agency stated that tar sands expansion "is contingent on the construction of major new pipelines to enable the crude to be exported to Asia and the United States." And Ross Girling, CEO of TransCanada, said that, "Developing tar sands is an opportunity that's going to be lost for decades to come if new pipelines do not immediately come online."

Less than 72 hours after the State Department released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline, I had the privilege to speak in San Francisco at one of the 280+ vigils the Sierra Club helped organize from coast to coast. Here's what I had to say:

Five years ago the Keystone XL was inevitable. Four years ago the Keystone XL was inevitable. Three years ago the Keystone XL was inevitable. Two years ago 1,253 people were arrested in front of the White House. Thank you 350 and Bill McKibben! Dozens of bold activists in Texas put their bodies on the line and were arrested. Then 12,000 people circled the White House to oppose the Keystone XL. And within months, Obama rejected the first TransCanada pipeline application. Keystone XL was no longer inevitable.

One year ago the odds of stopping the Keystone XL were still against us. Then the Sierra Club broke 120 years of tradition and joined Credo, 350.org, RAN, NAACP, Bobby Kennedy Junior, and Julian Bond to be arrested in front of the White House. Six days later 50,000 people gathered under the Washington Monument and marched around the White House. Then 1.2 million people commented in opposition to the State Department's flawed, biased, and rigged Environmental Impact Statement. Then 76,000 people took Credo, RAN, and The Other 98%'s Pledge of Resistance to engage in peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience to defeat KXL. Then hundreds of people showed up everywhere President Obama went to protest the KXL.

We are the sharp edge of the climate movement! And all movements need a sharp edge! We are getting bigger! We are getting stronger! The arc of history is bending in our favor! Let's finish the job! Let's convince President Obama to reject the KXL. No KXL! No KXL!

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