Opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline say they intend to make President Barack Obama hear their concerns after a March 1 report helped clear a way for White House approval of the project.
The pipeline drew a fresh wave of objections from groups including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and 350.org, when the U.S. State Department’s draft assessment said it won’t have a significant impact on global warming. Members of 350.org will confront Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at all future public events, said Daniel Kessler, a spokesman.
“If they are doing something in public, we will be there,” Kessler said in an e-mail. “Thousands of people are willing to get arrested to stop this project.”
The State Department’s analysis sets the stage for a series of reviews that put a possible final decision in September. The agency, which did the analysis because the $5.3 billion pipeline crosses a U.S. border, will gather public comments on its report before making the environmental statement final and deciding whether to issue a permit. Obama will have the final say.
“The president and Secretary Kerry have both said that they are committed to acting on climate change and that’s a good thing,” Kessler said. “But if they are really serious, then they must stop Keystone XL. It’s the first test of their resolve.”
Dozens of pipeline protesters, including the head of the Sierra Club, were arrested last month outside the White House. Days later on Feb. 18, an anti-pipeline rally in Washington drew as many as 35,000, according to organizers.
The draft report was “an important step toward receiving a presidential permit for this critical energy infrastructure project,” TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling said in a statement. His company’s pipeline, planned to run across six Great Plains states, is designed to carry about 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands fuel from Alberta and oil from shale rock formations in the U.S. to refineries in Texas.
While Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said nothing should now stand in the pipeline’s way, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the latest review failed to answer how the pipeline would affect U.S. consumers. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who leads the Environment and Public Works panel, said she remained “very concerned” about Keystone and climate change.
Supporters of the pipeline, such as David Kreutzer, a research fellow in energy economics at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, hesitate to celebrate just yet.
“Though he will receive pressure from environmental activists, the president should remember why he has been (unduly) taking credit for the increased oil production in the U.S. -- more oil is good for jobs, good for gasoline prices, and, in this case, good for international relations,” Kreutzer wrote in a blog entry responding to the report.