A Sierra Club volunteer in South Carolina said Vice President Joe Biden appeared to indicate his opposition to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL in a brief conversation with her last week.
Elaine Cooper, an environmental activist with the state’s Sierra Club chapter, said in a blog post that she asked Biden if the administration was serious about addressing climate change and if President Barack Obama would reject the pipeline, which would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“He looked at the Sierra Club hat on my head, and he said ’yes, I do – I share your views – but I am in the minority,’ and he smiled,” Cooper wrote in the blog posted on the Sierra Club’s website.
Cooper said she talked briefly to Biden at a May 3 fish fry sponsored by Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, in Columbia, the state capital. The conversation took place as Biden was shaking hands with supporters along a rope line.
The exchange was previously reported by website BuzzFeed.
Erich Pica, president of the Washington-based environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a written statement, “Vice President Biden is to be commended for his blunt talk.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the San Francisco-based environmental group, also issued a statement and said that Biden’s comments were encouraging.
Critics say Keystone will exacerbate climate change by promoting development of the Alberta oil sands, which releases more greenhouse gases than production of more conventional crude oil.
Biden’s office referred to a March 2012 interview in which Biden said the decision “will be made in an environmentally sound basis” after a process is completed.
“The vice president has made his views known on this issue and his views haven’t changed,” according to a statement from his office.
A State Department draft environmental analysis said the climate risks were minimal because the development in Alberta would happen with or without Keystone.
Supporters of Keystone say it will create thousands of construction jobs and improve U.S. energy security. The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses an international border.