It's been one month since the climate movement won a significant delay on the Keystone XL pipeline. Since then, the oil industry and their political and media backers have gotten increasingly desperate:
- Oil companies tried to ram a vote on Keystone through the U.S. Senate. Last week, that effort collapsed in disarray and finger-pointing among the fossil fuel industry's biggest political boosters.
- TransCanada, the Canadian company behind Keystone, even resorted to threats to sue the U.S. government under NAFTA. Early this month, they were forced to disavow that outrageous tactic.
- Pro-Keystone commentators are truly grasping at straws, including claiming that President Obama is delaying a decision to pave the way for a government takeover of the energy sector,1 and arguing that it's the poor, under-resourced oil industry—and not the environmental movement—that’s the real underdog in the fight over the pipeline.2
These bottom-of-the-barrel tactics signal that fossil fuel corporations will do anything to avoid facing up to the view that one prominent analyst voiced this month: "We have been of the opinion for nearly a year now that Keystone XL is dead."3This delay means another year that tar sands oil stays in the ground, instead of flowing through the pipeline. This delay is another nail in the coffin of this disastrous project. And you—the incredible grassroots tide of resolve and determination—are the ones who made this happen.
Keystone would have been just another routine dirty energy infrastructure project if not for public pressure—like the unprecedented 2.5 million public comments submitted into the approvals process. People all along the pipeline route, from Alberta to the Gulf Coast—especially Indigenous communities and farming communities—mobilized against the project.
Another key factor has been the threat of massive civil disobedience if President Obama approves the pipeline—one veteran environmental campaigner called it the "sharpest arrow in the quiver" of the Keystone opposition movement. Almost 100,000 people signed Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, committing to take direct action if the administration lights the fuse of the continent’s biggest carbon bomb.
So while we're proud that the movement won a major delay, the struggle is far from over. Here at Rainforest Action Network, we're staying vigilant on Keystone. We're continuing to hone the cutting edge of the climate movement by training committed activists. And we're taking fast, strategic action to block dirty energy deals.
Thank you for all you've done.
1. “Obama Blocks Keystone To Start Energy Takeover,” Investor’s Business Daily, May 13, 2014 (http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/051314-700702-obama-wants-energy-markets-fossil-fuels-under-government-heel.htm)
2. “Mainstream media don't know Big Green has deeper pockets than Big Oil,” Washington Examiner, May 13, 2014 (http://washingtonexaminer.com/mainstream-media-dont-know-big-green-has-deeper-pockets-than-big-oil/article/2548405)
3. “The Keystone Pipeline is Quickly Becoming Obsolete,” Business Insider, May 7, 2014 (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-keystone-pipeline-is-quickly-becoming-obsolete-2014-5)
We’ve had our eyes glued to the news on the Keystone XL pipeline delay all day. Here are some of the responses from different sides of the issue that we found most informative, inspiring and even entertaining. I’m not sure we can interpret the tealeaves on what today’s news means for the outcome of the pipeline. However, it’s hard not to agree with Tom Steyer: “This is rotten eggs for TransCanada and good news on Good Friday for those who oppose Keystone as not being in our nation's best interest.” In a battle between dirty oil profiteers and their cronies and those interested in a livable planet (you know, the rest of us), every day without this disastrous tar sands project is a pretty good day.
Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska director, the quote that’s just so right on: “Nebraska landowners will not give up their property rights with bad contract terms and unknown chemicals risking our water. This delay is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest.”
The State Department, the quote that tells you what actually happened today: “On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project. Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.”
Rachel Wolf, spokesperson for All Risk, No Reward Coalition, the quote that reflects our sentiments exactly: "Every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground. The latest postponement "confirms, yet again, that this project is not permit-able. This export pipeline fails the climate test, fails the jobs test, and doesn't even have a legal route."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, the quote that made us a chuckle. [Try not to read too much into Senator McConnell’s trite environment versus jobs positioning. We know that's a canned press strategy with no factual accuracy. But focus on how he affirms the power of our movement in the only way he can]: “Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job.”
Bill McKibben, the quote that gets straight to the point: "One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”
The State Department, the quote with so many words that says so little: "The permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents. The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views."
Russ Girling, TransCanada Corp Chief Executive, the quote that takes facts the least seriously: "It is unfortunate that interest groups and paid activists are blocking energy security, saying no to jobs, and creating a situation that actually leads to higher GHG's (greenhouse gases) and greater public at risk.”
If you've been glued to the emerging news on the Keystone XL pipeline like the RAN team has today then you already know that a final decision on this disastrous extreme energy project has been further delayed. Today, the Obama administration extended the review period on the pipeline to ostensibly give agencies more time to provide feedback. You're going to see a lot of quarterbacking on what this potential delay does or does not mean for the eventual fate of this pipeline. Here's what we know for sure.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fight is and will continue to be a defining moment for the history of the climate movement, and it's not over. We have to maintain bold, powerful pressure on President Obama and the State Department. Make no mistake, though, the pressure is working. The fact that this pipeline was not rubber-stamped as expected two years ago reflects the huge public outcry we've built collectively against Keystone XL and for sane climate solutions.
We know that people power is on our side and has already changed the historical fate of this project. As organizers, we also know that our dirty oil adversaries are hoping this delay will take the wind out of our sails, that we'll forget about Keystone XL and lose momentum. I have nearly 100,000 reasons to prove that's not going to happen.
For the last twelve months, Rainforest Action Network, CREDO and the Other 98% have spearheaded an effort to prepare tens of thousands of people across the country to deploy a massive nationwide wave of peaceful, dignified civil disobedience if Secretary Kerry recommends approval of Keystone XL to the president. As of today, more than 95,000 people have signed the Pledge of Resistance.
As Elijah Zarlin, CREDO's senior campaign manager said today: “It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL. Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project - which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL."
I am one of the almost 100,000 people who’ve signed the Pledge of Resistance, and I can guarantee that today’s news changes nothing for me. I'm not going away, RAN's not going away and neither are any of our allies. When I signed that pledge I knew it was for the long haul. Our future depends on it.
Photo by Kayana Szymczak.
- Coal Mining. For over forty years, coal companies have strip-mined Appalachia for the last remaining seams of coal while ending the power of organized labor by reducing workforces through mechanization. The regulation of strip-mining opened up loopholes that allowed coal companies to literally explode the tops off of mountains. To date over 500 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal. Countless creeks, rivers and other water sources have been poisoned. And thousands of people have been exposed to the worst effects of dirty air and dirty water from mountaintop removal. In the interior west, Big Coal is further mining huge coal reserves in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.
- Natural gas and fracking. For the past decade we've seen the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which stimulates wells drilled into gas and coal-bed methane. This process has had a huge human impact and created a toxic legacy on the environmental landscape as well as local community health. Large-scale fracking operations are spreading across North America.
- Oil infrastructure. The biggest environmental fight since the forest wars of the 1990s has manifested around the Keystone XL pipeline. But Keystone XL is only the beginning as Big Oil is building a network of pipelines throughout Canada and the United States. Spills and leaks are growing concerns as Big Oil weaves this spider web of death and destruction across the continent.
- Fossil fuel exports. The coasts are also becoming hot spots of attention as dozens of oil, gas and coal proposals are on the table in the Pacific Northwest and a fight is growing over a fracked-gas export terminal on Chesapeake Bay. Industry doesn’t just want to use mined and fracked fossil fuels for domestic energy production, they also want to export dirty fuels for big profits to Europe and Asia.
1. Keystone XL means more oil, and ship traffic, through the Houston Ship Canal. That means more oil spills.[caption id="attachment_23517" align="alignnone" width="530"] Tug boats moved damaged barge the spilled 168,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay. Photo via inhabitat.com[/caption] When complete, 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil will flow through Keystone XL everyday. If the oil doesn't spill on its 2000 mile journey from Alberta, Canada, refineries in Houston will process much of it. That will lead to more shipping traffic in Galveston Bay and potentially more oil spills.
2. While the industry profits, communities deal with sickening pollution from extracting and burning tar sands.[caption id="attachment_23515" align="alignnone" width="530"] Galveston Bay oil spill clean up next to communities in Texas. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] Oil is toxic and communities like Pike, TX will be forced to deal with the health impacts of this week's spill. Keystone XL will increase tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada, where First Nation communities already face health impacts from the industry. At the other end of the pipeline, refining the tar sands will lead to increased air pollution for communities—primarily communities of color—in Houston. Climate change from burning tar sands oil threatens us all.
3. Keystone XL is a threat to wildlife.[caption id="attachment_23516" align="alignnone" width="530"] A bird killed by this week's Galveston Bay spill. Photo Credit: Melissa Phillip/AP[/caption] The oil spill in Galveston is disrupting critical habitat for diverse migrating birds. While it's actually not the biggest spill to hit Galveston Bay, it couldn't have happened at a worse time for the wintering birds at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary (which is half a a mile from the spill!). At least 10 have died and 50 have been taken to rescue centers. The long-term effects up and down the food chain could also be devastating as oil stays in the sand for years. Tar sands extraction is already destroying giant swaths of Canada's boreal forest. Keystone XL could spill and damage critical habitat anywhere along its route. It particularly threatens North America's tallest bird, the critically endangered Whooping Crane. There are little more that 500 individuals left and the route of the pipeline lines up almost exactly with the their own range.
4. Keystone XL could disrupt our economy and food system.[caption id="attachment_23518" align="alignnone" width="530"] Booms attempt to contain the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] The spill will have a huge economic toll. Not only did it shut down one of the world's busiest waterways for 3 days, it will disrupt Galveston Island's lucrative tourism industry right in the middle of spring break. Perhaps most damaging, it will have long-term consequences for the Galveston Bay's multibillion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry. Keystone XL might contribute to another spill in Galveston Bay, but a spill anywhere could have serious impacts on agriculture. Particularly, the pipeline threatens the Oglalla Aquifer, the largest source of fresh water in the United States and supply for much of the nations's bread basket. Climate change caused by expanding tar sands will have catastrophic effects on our economy and food system.
5. There's hope.[caption id="attachment_23519" align="alignnone" width="530"] A rescued bird recovers from the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Chase A. Fountain/TPWD[/caption] Hundreds have volunteered to clean up after the oil spill and experts are working tirelessly to protect birds from the heavy oil. Humans have a great capacity to come together during a crisis. Well, Keystone XL is a crisis for communities and the climate. Let's come together to stop it. Sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance today! Correction: In a previous version of this blog I refer to the oil spilled as crude. The oil spilled was bunker fuel oil, a thick, tarry fuel usually used on board ships.
Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance – Spring Training Tour 2014
April 5-6Boston, MA Philadelphia, PA Chicago, IL Austin, TX
April 12-13Los Angeles, CA New York, NY Ann Arbor, MI Washington, D.C.
Yes! Big crowd of #NoKXL protestors headed to Philly federal building in 1hr w/ brooms to "sweep out" corruption pic.twitter.com/5cLHvIixYR — Jamie Henn (@Agent350) March 10, 2014
#XLDissentPhilly activists blocking federal building door. #NoKXL pic.twitter.com/dhXt1DsInp — Sean Kitchen (@RCPress_Sean) March 10, 2014
We will not let you build this pipeline #nokxl #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/sZzP659nEz — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Tussle with the police. #nokxl pic.twitter.com/MiLaIP5qKY — EarthQuakrActionTeam (@eqat) March 10, 2014
Door #2 blocked at #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/ZQg2p6QB59 — Sam Bernhardt (@slbernhardt) March 10, 2014
Door #3 blocked #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/J5UCFvehcu — Sam Bernhardt (@slbernhardt) March 10, 2014
Sweep out corruption: #nokxl #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/sLXVkT4q7s — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Officer: you trying to go in here? Woman: yes Officer: that's not going to happen #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/pL44qBLUqb — Sam Bernhardt (@slbernhardt) March 10, 2014
Here come the barricades. Let's person them! #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/HbziPfGlWl — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Barricades going up #nokxl #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/mxnWRS2dGd — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
First arrests at #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/qvEOv7DmGQ — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
I count at least 5 arrests #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/gnxSAH9F00 — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014And the second wave begins!
The replacements just took over the door where others just got arrested #XLDissentPhilly #NoKXL pic.twitter.com/7MGwsdrP9D — EarthQuakrActionTeam (@eqat) March 10, 2014
Heads held high #xldissentphilly #nokxl @RisingTideNA pic.twitter.com/9c3wz2nCW6 — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Huge cheer for @eqat Eileen organizer extraordinaire #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/EjTNS8r4dA — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Still 2 doorways blocked at federal building #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/frmSX2LQ1l — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
Lines restored #xldissentphilly #nokxl pic.twitter.com/vIVFKVxrQy — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014
We left the chore list for @statedept #nokxl #xldissentphilly pic.twitter.com/cB0p0BWhKk — Environmental Action (@EnviroAction) March 10, 2014