Credo Action

President Obama and Secretary Kerry: Don't let a sham process approve Keystone XL

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The petition to President Obama and Secretary Kerry reads:

"The fate of Keystone XL is in your hands. Don't allow a sham process by oil industry contractors to set the stage for White House approval of a project that will lead to 'game over for the climate' expansion of tar sands. This decision will determine your legacy - and we are watching closely."

    President Obama and Secretary Kerry: Don't let a sham process approve Keystone XL

    The end of 2013 marks three years that public pressure from CREDO and others -- including your activism -- has successfully fought off approval of the Keystone XL pipeline since insiders declared it's approval inevitable. And while we could be facing a situation where the White House continues to put off making this crucial decision, the rumors coming out of Washington suggest that the Obama administration could be moving toward approval in the early months of 2014.

    The situation is complicated and it’s also quite fluid. What we’re hearing is this. President Obama and Secretary Kerry have largely removed themselves from the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL under the guise of avoiding the appearance of exerting political influence over the process.

    What this means is that they are leaving one of the most closely watched decisions of the Obama presidency in the hands of the oil-industry contractor that produced the sham draft report and the State Department staffers who oversaw it.1

    If the same contractor and State Department managers who generated the first flawed environmental impact statement are allowed to finalize a sham finding claiming there will be no net climate impact from the Keystone XL pipeline, it will be difficult for the president, by his own stated criteria, to refuse to issue the presidential permit to TransCanada.

    Tell President Obama and Secretary Kerry: The fate of Keystone XL is in your hands, and this decision will determine your legacy. You cannot let a sham process by oil industry contractors set the stage for White House approval.

    It’s up to President Obama and Secretary Kerry to ensure a fair, accurate final evaluation of Keystone XL that fully accounts for its climate impacts – and intervening in the process is exactly what they should be doing.

    President Obama clearly stated that the criteria for approving the Keystone XL pipeline was its net impact on climate. But the draft environmental evaluation released by the State Department in March – and penned by oil industry contractor Environmental Resources Management which is a previous client of TransCanada2 – cynically found that tar sands extraction was inevitable, and therefore the Keystone XL tar sands extraction accelerator would have no impact on the climate. The State Department and ERM may be on track to finalize this finding, but it’s simply not true.

    Denying the climate impact of Keystone XL not only flies in the face of logic, hard economic fact, and any hope that it may be possible to stop “game over for the climate” tar sands expansion, but also of President Obama’s own authority to regulate both cross-border pipelines and the oil trains which the State Department found would be a comparable alternative should Keystone XL not be built.

    The notion that oil trains are an economically comparable method to transport tar sands in place of Keystone XL is flawed for a number of reasons3 – not the least of which is that these trains have been derailing and exploding across the U.S. and Canada, and President Obama’s Department of Transportation is currently looking at ways to improve their abysmal safety.4 If adequate recommendations are called for, it could dramatically increase the cost of transporting dangerous tar sands over the railways.

    But if the State Department finalizes the finding that oil trains can stand in for Keystone XL, it would preempt the current Department of Transportation rules, effectively assuming that President Obama will do nothing to improve the safety of catastrophically dangerous oil trains! That logic is deeply flawed and can only be attributed to a contractor rigging a report to box the White House in on approval. The president and secretary of state must make sure that doesn’t happen.

    Tell President Obama and John Kerry: Don’t stand by and allow a sham-process to force approval of Keystone XL!

    We’ve been waiting almost eight months for the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). And it could be days or months before we see it.

    If a flawed finding is finalized and preposterously asserts that there are no net climate impacts from Keystone XL, it likely means that the National Interest Determination process that follows the final EIS will find that Keystone is in the national interest -- something we know is not true -- making it unlikely for the president himself or one of his agencies to file the formal objection to the report necessary to block an approval.

    That’s why it’s so dangerous that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are leaving this process on autopilot -- without leadership from the White House, the State Department’s contractor could be setting Keystone XL on a course that will leave the president little room to reject the pipeline once the Environmental Impact Statement is finalized.

    The President has said he is committed to addressing climate change. But at the same time, he has fast-tracked approval of the fittingly re-named “MarketLink” southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is scheduled to begin operating sometime in January. And EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently said she agrees with the cynical argument that radically increased tar sands development is inevitable.5

    We won’t win a rejection of Keystone XL without continued, escalated and massive public pressure. The 76,000 people who have pledged resistance and committed to risk arrest will be ready to take action if necessary to protest approval. As we wait for a final evaluation, this is a key moment to let President Obama and Secretary Kerry know that we’re still closely watching this decision.

    Tell President Obama and Secretary Kerry: We’re watching. A sham process by an oil industry contractor will not give you cover to approve Keystone XL.

    1. "EPA Slams State’s Draft Impact Statement For Keystone XL," Think Progress, 4/22/13
    2. "State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review," Desmog Blog, 7/10/13
    3. "Five reasons why rail won't be replacing pipelines for moving tar sands oil," NRDC, 11/6/13
    4. "As more oil flows by rail, concerns grow about safety of tank cars," Chicago Tribune, 11/29/13
    5. "McCarthy Hints at Keystone Approval," National Journal, 11/4/13