Environmentalists Citing Keystone Fault Obama on Energy

A coalition of environmental groups is calling on President Barack Obama to put greater emphasis on combating climate change in his energy policy, pressing the administration as it weighs approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The administration’s pursuit of increased domestic oil and gas production jeopardizes progress made toward lowering carbon pollution linked to climate change, according to a letter signed by leaders of 18 U.S. environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“An ‘all of the above’ strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford,” the groups wrote in the letter released last night. “It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money.”

The letter emerged as the U.S. State Department completes work on a final environmental assessment of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $5.4 billion pipeline that would carry oil sands crude from Canada to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico coast. The project has galvanized environmental groups, which are pushing Obama to reject the project because they say it will increase greenhouse-gas emissions tied to climate change.

A draft environmental impact review by the State Department concluded the pipeline wouldn’t worsen climate change because the carbon-heavy oil would find its way to market by other means. The agency held a hearing and accepted comments for the environmental impact study, a final version of which hasn’t yet been released. Once it is complete, federal agencies will have 90 days to submit comments on the project’s national interest.

‘Climate-Impact Lens’

Obama has said he won’t approve Calgary-based TransCanada’s application to build Keystone if it were found to substantially boost carbon-dioxide emissions, which scientists say are raising the Earth’s temperature.

In their letter, the environmental organizations cited the Keystone project and said that “a climate-impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development.”

The president rejected the company’s initial application to build Keystone after officials in Nebraska said the pipeline would imperil ecologically sensitive lands. TransCanada then split the project in two and applied for the rerouted northern leg in May 2012.

The letter was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

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