With the House of Representatives passing a bill that would force approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the stage is set for President Obama to veto such a bill and then reject this dirty energy project as against our national interest. Keystone XL has repeatedly been shown to be bad for our water, communities and climate. It makes no economic sense, having the potential to hurt American farming jobs while only creating 35 permanent US jobs. Coming after a decision of the Nebraska Supreme Court acting against the rights of landowners by letting the current proposed route of Keystone XL stand on a technicality, it is more clear than ever that the Administration has all the information it needs and a clear path to move ahead with rejecting the tar sands pipeline.
The bill to approve Keystone XL did not have enough votes to override a veto despite attempts by Republican leadership. The attempt to approve Keystone XL will continue to wind its way through the Senate in the coming weeks. However, President Obama has made it clear that he will veto any bill to approve Keystone XL as conflicting with the ongoing process.
In the meantime, even though a Nebraska Supreme Court majority found the route in that state unconstitutional, this was not the supermajority needed for landowners to prevail. TransCanada -- the Canadian company pushing this pipeline -- is now stuck defending a route that risks the Ogallala Aquifer, something that President Obama has noted is a matter of great concern for Americans. Nebraska landowner Randy Thompson, the lawsuit's lead plaintiff said: "This remains clear: the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would threaten the land and water in America's heartland and the health and livelihoods of the people who live there. It would be a disaster for the climate by opening up expanded development of Canada's dirty tar sands, and it would bring no significant economic benefit to the United States. It needs to be rejected. And it's time for President Obama to deny this misguided project."
What the conclusion of the court case in Nebraska does mean is that the "pause" button has been lifted from the Keystone XL permitting. Next steps include completion of review of the agency and public comments, development of the national interest determination and a final decision on whether or not to give Keystone XL a presidential permit.
We may not know when we'll see this final decision, but we do know what it should find. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline makes no economic, security, social or environmental sense for America. It is not in our national interest and should be rejected.
In addition to the concerns of US farmers and ranchers about what Keystone XL would mean for our waters, the fact that this tar sands pipeline would drive climate change remains a critical issue for communities across America and around the world. Senator Whitehouse summed it up well in a letter he just sent to Secretary Kerry asking for rejection of Keystone XL: "Over the past year, it has become more apparent that the extent of tar sands expansion -- and the related carbon pollution -- depends on whether Keystone XL is built."
One of the recent studies was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature that adds weight to the premise that we cannot continue to extract and burn tar sands and get where we need to be in curbing climate change. This comes on top of what we already know about tar sands climate-busting properties: it is more energy intensive to extract and projects like Keystone XL will not only drive expansion of the tar sands extraction, but also keep us dependent on oil far into the future.
Much has been made of the jobs issue and hopefully some of the recent pieces on the jobs numbers make it clear that far from being an economic engine, Keystone XL is likely to hurt critical jobs in our heartland. It is also clearer than ever that clean energy jobs is and should be the way of the future. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) keeps close track of clean energy jobs and most recently reported that America's clean energy economy created nearly 80,000 green jobs in 2013, benefitting virtually every state across the country. That is what an economic engine looks like and it is one that helps instead of hurts our communities and our children's future.
The vote on Keystone XL shows that Republican leadership in the House remains in the grip of big polluters lacking vision or caring for our health and well-being. Unfortunately, the Keystone XL vote is just the first in what the Republican Congressional leadership has promised will be a series of attacks on our health and environment. It is more important than ever that the Administration move forward with its clean power plan and efforts to ensure we have the environmental protections in place that are essential to our families and to our economic well-being.