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Rejecting Keystone XL is Good Politics As Well As Good Policy

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As the debate surrounding the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continues, we're seeing an overwhelming reaction from people across the country asking Secretary Kerry and President Obama to reject this dirty, dangerous project. The State Department's Keystone XL comment period recently came to a close, with over two million comments submitted against the pipeline.

It was just the latest sign that all of the energy and enthusiasm is with opponents of the project. The comment period comes on the heels of 283 Keystone XL vigils in early February and the recent arrest of nearly 400 pipeline opponents outside of the White House. Americans are fired up and counting on Secretary Kerry and President Obama to reject Keystone XL.

The President and Secretary Kerry surely understand this passion, given the strong leadership they've both shown by consistently stressing the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis. Now they have a golden opportunity to take a huge step on that front by rejecting Keystone XL once and for all.

When President Obama unveiled his ambitious Climate Action Plan last summer, he set a line in the sand that he would not approve Keystone XL if it would significantly worsen carbon pollution - something we know to be the case. Keystone XL is necessary for Canada to fully develop its tar sands, which are far more carbon-intensive than conventional crude.

Earlier this month, Secretary Kerry made climate change the subject of his first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State, instructing diplomats around the world to "elevate the environment in everything we do." As he carefully looks at the evidence that developing the tar sands will lead to climate disaster, he should recognize that stopping Keystone XL is the perfect place to start.

Then there's the news out of Nebraska, where landowners stood up to deep-pocketed oil interests -- and won. The recent court ruling that there is no legal route for the pipeline to pass through Nebraska should serve as the final blow to this dirty tar sands pipeline.

But a rejection of Keystone XL isn't just the right policy decision. It's smart politics, too.

Despite all the bluster and spin you're hearing from the fossil fuel industry, Keystone XL likely won't be the determining factor in a single congressional race this year.

Most voters who may oppose Democratic candidates in November will do so regardless of their position on Keystone XL. But if Keystone XL is rejected, all of the enthusiasm that protesters are displaying now could transform into campaign donations and get-out-the-vote efforts for those candidates who are standing against the pipeline.

History shows that opponents of the pipeline have nothing to fear. Not one anti-Keystone XL candidate targeted with television ads on the pipeline lost in the 2012 elections, despite the millions spent against them.

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Meanwhile, Keystone XL backers across the country were sent packing, including Mitt Romney, New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson, Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, and Representatives Francisco Canseco of Texas, Ann Marie Buerkle of New York, Dan Lungren of California, and Joe Walsh of Illinois.

These candidates all suffered the rude awakening that they can't expect to win an election by touting a dirty export pipeline that is all risk with no reward. It won't lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, or create a meaningful number of permanent jobs. It also didn't help their case that Keystone XL had the backing of Big Oil, one of the most unpopular industries in America.

Oil executives may well spend big on pro-Keystone XL candidates again in 2014. But voters didn't buy Big Oil's spin then, and they won't buy it this time either.

While rejecting Keystone XL wouldn't cost opponents of the pipeline their seats in the Senate, what it would do is cement Secretary Kerry and President Obama's climate legacy by sending a powerful message that we as a country are committed to the clean energy of the future and not the dirty fuels of the past.

As this process continues and Secretary Kerry and President Obama review the public comments, the science, and the facts, we're confident they'll find that this pipeline is not in the national interest and must be rejected. It's a decision that's good politics and good for our planet.