The Keystone XL saga is entering another exciting week. As thousands of people prepare to completely surround the White House November 6 to push President Obama to deny the permit for the 1,700-mile pipeline, Lisa Jackson and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to release their final review of the State Department's Environmental Impact Statement for the project.
Will Jackson be able to stand strong to industry and insider pressure? Will the State Department inspector general launch an investigation into accusations of department impropriety? And what will another batch of State Department emails released under the Freedom of Information Act turn up? Perhaps another titillating note from a State Department official inviting a Keystone XL lobbyist to join her on a vacation in Canada's "winter wonderland"? (Think I'm joking? Check the last batch of revelations.)
You're not alone in feeling that the Keystone XL drama is increasingly sounding like an afternoon soap opera. There was even a case of mistaken fatherhood: at first, the Koch Brothers denied that they had any interest in the pipeline, shouting, "It's not ours" when Rep. Henry Waxman launched inquiries. Turns out that they actually have serious financial interests in the project: no need to test the paternity of the pipe, it's Koch-kinder.
This week's potential drama with EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson should prove especially interesting. Jackson has been a reliable champion for the environment and American people since she took office. But with the Obama Administration running scared from the Tea Party backlash, Jackson has increasingly been left out to dry. Just this August, the White House ignored EPA recommendations to strengthen smog controls at the cost of 17,000 premature deaths each year.
As you may recall from our previous episodes, the EPA has twice criticized the Keystone XL pipeline's environmental impact statements prepared under the eye of the State Department. I say "under the eye," because the department didn't actually do the assessment themselves: they shipped that responsibility out to Cardno-Entrix, a Bond-villain-sounding consultant company recommended to do the assessment by the company building the pipeline, TransCanada.
Beltway tea-leaf readers are convinced that the EPA is going to succumb to industry pressure and give the latest State Department report a pass. That would be a shame. The Keystone XL pipeline is clearly an environmental tragedy. Earlier this year, twenty of America's top climate scientists sent a letter to the president warning that if the pipeline went through and the Canadian tar sands were fully exploited, it could spell "game over" for the climate. Just today, a new article came out documenting how the oil industry is now shooting wolves to protect the few remaining caribou they haven't already displaced while ripping up Canada's boreal forest to get at the tar sands' bitumen. Welcome to conservation, oil industry style.
There's still a chance Jackson and the EPA will stay strong. Either way, thousands of people are planning on using this weekend to show President Obama that he has the support to stand up to Big Oil and deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. On Sunday, November 6, over 4,000 people are expected to surround the White House in a complete circle, either a symbol of hope or a symbolic house arrest. Unlike the Pentagon protests of the 1960s, we won't be trying to levitate the building, but resurrect the Barack Obama who ran in 2008 and pledged to "end the tyranny of oil" and run "the most transparent government in history."
Here's an invitation from Robert Redford inviting you to join in the action:
There may be some heartbreak this week, there will certainly be some drama, but rest assured, the show will go on. Let's hope that the good guys win.