Republicans Escalate Pressure to Hold Payroll Tax Cut Hostage to Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Posted December 16, 2011
NRDC remains strongly opposed to any attempts by Republicans in Congress to force the President to expedite the review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The President has said it would take a least a year to do a proper review of the route and broader impact of the pipeline on the health and safety of Americans. He should not be strong-armed into a decision by Big Oil interests. Any Keystone XL rider should be rejected and not be allowed into legislation. If it passes, the Administration needs to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest and will hurt jobs, security, health and environment.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline rider currently proposed for inclusion in the payroll tax-cut legislation would force the President to make an uninformed decision on the pipeline within 60 days, pre-approving a route through Nebraska before it has even been proposed. This would short-circuit the environmental review process for the pipeline. In November, the Administration decided that an additional year of environmental review, especially of alternative routes, was necessary before it could make a decision.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would take our country backwards, not forwards. We need clean energy policies that create permanent jobs in manufacturing fuel efficient cars, weatherizing our homes, and building solar panels and wind turbines. These policies would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Administration should not be forced to make a premature decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. However, if so forced, the only decision should be a rapid rejection of the pipeline. On December 12, 2011, the State Department said that if the bill passes, it would reject the pipeline. “Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision, its actions would not only compromise the process, it would prohibit the Department from acting consistently with National Environmental Policy Act requirements by not allowing sufficient time for the development of this information. In the absence of properly completing the process, the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project.” The Administration needs to live up to this commitment.
Myths and scary stories have been circulated repeatedly by the oil industry and Republicans. Let’s debunk these myths once again:
Despite the hype, the pipeline is not a jobs plan: According to the pipeline company itself, the pipeline would create only a few hundred permanent jobs and the State Department estimates no more than 6,500 temporary jobs. The only independent study found that it would in fact kill more jobs than it would create by suppressing clean energy jobs. See our fact sheet on why the pipeline is not a “jobs plan.” The same thing is being said by many others including on NPR, the Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It is crystal clear that the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of jobs being cynically dangled before the public are fantasy at best.
This pipeline will not create energy security. Instead it will perpetuate our addiction to oil and open up a global market for tar sands oil through the Gulf of Mexico. Brigadier General Steven Anderson, former Chief Logistician in Iraq and Afghanistan serving under General Petraeus, said the following: “My experiences in Iraq convinced me that the greatest threat to our security is our over-reliance on oil and that Americans must immediately take steps to cut our petro-addiction before it’s too late. The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t help. This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, and do absolutely nothing to move us off Middle East oil, to our enemies’ delight. It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.”
Our access to tar sands won’t dry up. The implication that Canada has a take it or leave it strategy built around the Keystone XL pipeline is ludicrous. We get almost one million barrels of Alberta’s tar sands every day. That isn’t going to change. It does not go away, regardless of what happens with Keystone XL which is more about diverting supply to the Gulf Coast for export than it is about increasing supply for Americans.
Tar sands does not have a viable path to China. The threat that a pipeline to Canada’s west coast will be built if Keystone XL is delayed or cancelled is part B of the effort to make China and Asia’s emerging markets into a petroleum-sucking bogeyman. And make no mistake, Big Oil desperately wants access to those markets---it is one of the main reasons for Keystone XL. Too bad it is physically and politically impossible right now. The proposed pipeline to the Canadian west coast---Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project---has been delayed for a year by Canadian regulators while they listen to a massive wave of public feedback expressing the same climate and safety concerns that have slowed the pipeline to Houston. That project is unlikely to be built.
And of course, the biggest issues are being lost in this debate:
Safety: While the pipeline builder has agreed to shift the project’s route in Nebraska in response to overwhelming public safety concerns, no map of the alternate has yet to be produced, leaving Husker nation in the dark about whether significant changes have been made or the agreement is simply lip service to speed the project along. It is pretty hard to imagine how regulators can make a responsible decision on this project if they do not even know where the pipeline will run.
Climate: As carbon emissions have increased to their highest recorded levels, this pipeline would add nearly a million additional barrels of the dirtiest oil on the planet into the mix. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer’s own numbers tar sands greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise and tar sands is getting dirtier, not cleaner.
Public Concern: The implication that this is just a pet issue for environmentalists is just wrong. Major companies, mayors, farmers, religious leaders, business leaders, scientists, veterans, workers and many others across North America is saying no to tar sands.
Republicans seem more interested in handing Big Oil a freebie than in taking care of the interests of the American public. There should be no deal on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
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