Just as ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders traveled to Washington DC for a last ditch effort to get President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline, the State Department postponed the decision again.
They need time to read the 2.5 million comments, they say, and the route through Nebraska is up in the air after landowners won in court.
That ruling, which nullified the Governor’s use of eminent domain to force three landowners to allow the pipeline through their land, is being appealed.
But "Reject and Protect" will take place this week anyway, from April 22-27 on the National Mall. An encampment of 15 tipis and a covered wagon will serve as symbols to remind Obama
that this decision has real consequences for families in Alberta, Canada, along the pipeline route and in areas near refineries – in
addition to long-lasting climate impacts for many more than seven generations to come.
In Nebraska, pipeline opponents carved an 80-acre message into the soil that lays in the pipeline’s proposed path: "Heartland#NoKXL."
"We have always been stewards of the land," says Art Tanderup, the farmer who owns the land and carved the message with his tractor. "The soil is very sandy here. Any leak would leach into the Ogallala Aquifer, contaminating our water without any concrete plan to clean up the pollution."
President Obama is being bombarded by pressure on both sides. Republicans are constantly after him on it, and even Blue Dog Democrats urged him to quickly approve it last week. Six big unions favor it and at least one – Laborers’ International Union of North America – threatens to withhold support during the 2014 elections if it isn’t approved.
On the other side is the environmental community, climate scientists, Nobel laureates (three letters), progressive businesses, Obama’s own staff, big Democratic donors, and last week, former President Jimmy Carter added his voice against the pipeline. In an open letter, which appears as a full-page ad in Politico, he joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 9 other Nobel Laureates in saying:
"You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate," the laureates write.
Sadly, every contractor the State Department hired to evaluate the environmental impact of Keystone has ties to TransCanada or the tar sands industry.
Tom Steyer, who runs the NextGen Climate Pac to elect pro-environment candidates, wants Secretary of State John Kerry to conduct yet another review because of the "defective" analysis that keeps concluding there’s no relationship between building the pipeline and extracting more tar sands oil.
In his own open letter he said last week, "NextGen Climate is taking a Courage Pledge to support Members of Congress who are now being threatened with political attacks because they had the courage to stand up for our children by opposing the Keystone pipeline" …"We continue to take on powerful forces like TransCanada, the Koch brothers, and climate change deniers in Congress who are seeking to advance their own economic self-interests at the expense of our country."
Koch Industries is just about the largest owner of tar sands land somewhere between 1.1-2 million acres out of a total of 35 million acres.
Meanwhile, Enbridge’s pipeline, which ruptured in Kalamazoo, Michigan four years ago, is about to carry tar sands crude again – as much as 500,000 barrels a day. Newly built, it will cross over 100 wetlands, streams and rivers on its 235-mile route through Michigan, starting May 1.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway route – which would run west through Canada to the Pacific coast for export – was voted down by local residents.
Remember, oil companies that carry tar sands oil don’t have to pay into the US cleanup fund.
Here’s the Nobel Laureates’ letter: