No Keystone XL Pipeline…For now
No Keystone XL Pipeline…For now
By Emily Feinberg- Waterkeeper Intern
On Friday, President Obama pushed aside the decision about the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election. Under intense pressure from Nebraskans and environmentalists, the Obama administration decided to review the proposed route of the project. The pipeline would have been routed through the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, an extremely environmentally sensitive area. The Sand Hills is among the largest and perhaps most intricate wetland ecosystems in the country with a large array of plant and animal life. The region would be put at great risk by a breach in the pipeline.
In a statement, President Obama said “I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal… Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American People as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.” Now, it sounds like he understands the enormous environmental risk of building a pipeline through the US. So why didn’t he reject the project?
The president has been put between a rock and a hard place with this proposal. The rock is TransCanada; the hard place(s) being business lobbies and environmental health advocates. At stake are thousands of jobs, electoral support, a demand for the development of carbon-free alternatives, and the demand for a secure source of oil. Those opposing the pipeline in Nebraska feared the crossing of the Ogallala Aquifer, an important source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Concerns for the fragile landscape of the wetlands have been heard loud and clear. It looks like the President is directly responding to the public outcry against the pipeline, just not in the full capacity some had hoped for.
So the decision will be made in 2012… does that mean it could be left up to Obama’s successor? One year gives TransCanada time to develop a new route for the pipeline, while environmentalists vocalize their hopes for the project to dismantle. Looking at a year from now, it’s difficult to say where the project will be. If this “kick-the-can” tactic is political, it may work for the Obama administration, but where does that leave our precious wetlands? America’s dependence on fossil fuels is no small matter, as it’s directly affecting our climate and our waterways. It’s imperative that the government shift its focus to alternative energy for the sake of the health of our ecosystems.
Our fight is nowhere near over. While we may count this as a small victory, I emphasize the word small. The president needs to know that we’re not letting our guard down, and that rerouting the pipeline isn’t enough. We have less harmful options, so let’s make ourselves heard. Here is a pledge from TarSands Action to stop the Keystone XL pipeline for good, not just for one year.