President says he's putting American public health and safety first and won't cut deal with Republicans on Keystone XL tar sands pipeline
Posted December 7, 2011
Today, the President – in a question and answer session with reporters after a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Harper – made it clear he is not backing down from his decision last month to take another year to understand the full implications of the massive tar sands project. The pipeline would carry nearly 1 million barrels a day of highly toxic tar sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, where it can be shipped anywhere in the world. It would bisect the heartland of the country, crossing nearly 2000 rivers and streams and cutting through Nebraska’s sensitive Ogallala aquifer and Sandhills region. Last month, the President delayed a decision on the pipeline, saying that there were health and safety concerns, especially in Nebraska, that needed to be addressed. The announcement to take more time also committed to looking more closely at the climate impacts of the pipeline.
In a question about whether he would consider a deal on Keystone XL to get legislation extending the payroll tax cut, the President made it clear he was putting the health and safety of the American public first and that he would reject any effort to tie fast tracking Keystone XL to the payroll tax legislation. When asked if his decision to delay the pipeline was a political one, he shot back that the pipeline is a big project with big consequences and that it was his job to make sure that the right process is followed to reach a good decision for the American public health and safety. This closely tracks what the President said in an interview with a Nebraska news station a month ago.
Republicans in both chambers of Congress have been threatening to attach bills to the payroll tax cut extension that would force the President to make a decision on the pipeline. In a hyperbolic statement today, Majority Leader Boehner said that Keystone XL would create tens of thousands of jobs. TransCanada itself has admitted that the pipeline would ultimately create only a few hundred of jobs and that it would create 6,000 temporary jobs over two years of construction. The Cornell Global Labor Institute – in the only independent study done on jobs – found that the pipeline would in fact be a job killer, suppressing clean energy jobs and slowing the economic recovery in the Midwest by raising gas prices (the pipeline would divert oil from the Midwest). Boehner and others have argued that the pipeline would create greater American energy security but the pipeline would divert oil from the Midwest for years and carry oil to the Gulf where it could be exported anywhere in the world. Oil giant Valero, one of the major shippers on the pipeline, has said it plans to export much of what it refines.
NRDC has been actively working to stop House Republicans from adding so-called riders to the tax extension. With only days left before adjourning for the year, the House leadership has threatened to load up the bill with numerous anti-environmental provisions, including pushing the pipeline through.
Of course, there is a certain irony in all of this. It has in no small part been due to Republican politicians in Nebraska that the pipeline decision has been delayed. The Republic Governor Dave Heineman and Senator Mike Johanns and many ranchers and farmers in Nebraska have made it clear that they will not accept a pipeline that puts their irrigation and drinking water at risk. The pipeline would actually be laid into the Ogallala aquifer, source of drinking water for over 2 million Americans and irrigation water for eight states.
Once again, the extreme anti-environment House is playing politics with the health and safety of the American public.The President asked them to do the people’s business instead.
The President also made it clear to Prime Minister Harper that he was not speeding up the review. In previous meetings, Harper has made it clear that he expects the President to approve the pipeline, and his government has spared no effort to lobby for its approval. Today, Harper took a more conciliatory stance, refusing to comment on internal politics - this likely due both to the President's clear statement on the pipeline and perhaps also due to a decision yesterday that a pipeline in his own country - to the B.C. coast - would also be delayed due to public concerns.
Those who seek to push these dirty oil pipelines through - whether Republicans in Congress or the Prime Minister of Canada - do so at our expense and at the beckoning of Big Oil.
Thanks to the President, today concerns for our health and safety came first.
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