Opposition to Keystone XL Pipeline Heating Up

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Photo by Robert van Waarden

The fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline is heating up, with many positive and important developments occuring this past week, excluding the disgraceful, though unsurprising decision by the Obama for President 2012 campaign team to bring a former TransCanada lobbyist, Broderick Johnson (husband of NPR's Michele Norris), onto its upper-level staff.

Six main big ticket items stand out, in particular:

  • call for a U.S. State Department Office of the Inspector General probe into the Keystone XL pipeline review process by 14 U.S. Congressional members.
  • call for a special session to occur on November 1 by Nebraska Republican Governor Dave Heineman regarding pipeline safety concerns.
  • meeting between leaders of the youth climate movement and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson on the pipeline.
  • A recent massive anti-pipeline action that took place in San Francisco, in which 1,000 protesters greeted Obama at one of his fundraising events for his 2012 presidential run.
  • An announced push-back of the Keystone XL pipeline final decision date by the State Department. 
  • An acknowledgement, at last, by President Barack Obama that he is taking into consideration the concerns voiced by citizens nationwide about the potential risks to public health, water supplies and the global climate if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

Congressional Probe 

The request for the probe, announced in a letter signed by the 14 Democrats and sent to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. State Department, calls for “an investigation into the State Department's handling of the Environmental Impact Statement and National Interest Determination for TransCanada Corporation's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”

Key excerpts of the letter read,

Given the significant economic, environmental, and public health implications of the proposed pipeline, we believe that it is critical that the State Department conduct thorough, unbiased reviews of the project. Further, it is imperative that the State Department process be free of actual or apparent conflicts of interest…


…[G]iven the importance of this project and the process regarding the State Department's review process to-date, a thorough investigation covering…any possible violations of federal law or improper conduct related to the State Department…a [probe is warranted]…for the Keystone XL 

While only 14 out of 435, it shows that the issue is, at minimum, high on the radar of some politicians inside the Beltway and the voices of grassroots leaders are finally being heard, at least by some.

Nebraska Special Session

Nebraska has, in many ways, been ground zero in the fight against the pipeline, led in the forefront by Jane Kleeb's grassroots activist group, Bold Nebraska.

Public opposition to the pipeline got the attention of the governor of a Republican Party generally uninclined to accept scientific reality.

Having already urged President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to deny the permit on a seperate occasion at the end of August, Heineman, hearing only the sound of silence from what DeSmogBlog has called “State Department Oil Services,” Heineman called for a special sesssion regarding the pipeline.

“The purpose of the Special Session will be to find a legal and constitutional solution to the siting of oil pipelines within the state,” according to a press release issued by Heineman.

Of chief concern, the current pipeline route runs directly over the Nebraska Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, both of which are vital pieces of the Nebraska economy. 

Youth Climate Movement Meeting

Representatives of the youth climate movement met with EPA head Lisa Jackson - including former Obama volunteers, as well as the Energy Action Coalition, a coalition of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement.  Keystone XL was among the topics of the meeting.

Activists' Push Against Pipeline Drawing Attention

The day after a protest in San Francisco, which drew a crowd of 1,000 anti-pipeline protesters to greet him, President Obama was again greeted by more protesters in Denver who interrupted his campaign stump speech.

Forced to acknowledge them, at last, Obama stated, “I know your deep concern about it…We will address it.” 

The decision process has been bottlenecked and pushed back by the State Department, which likely thought at first that, likely nearly all other ecologically destructive decisions it makes, it would be rubber-stamped.

Not the case this time around, though.

Upcoming next steps

This all comes ahead of a big November 6 action organized by the leaders of the Tar Sands Action movement, in a call to circle around the White House to demand that President Barack Obama reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.

As the late historian Howard Zinn once proclaimed, “What matters is not who's sitting in the White House, but who's SITTING IN the White House – and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”

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