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For Immediate Release, December 22, 2011

Contacts: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Congress Passes Payroll Tax Cuts Bill With Rider on Disastrous Keystone XL Project

Dirty Oil Pipeline Not in National Interest

WASHINGTON— The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a companion bill to the Senate’s bill passed last week extending payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits for two months, including an entirely unrelated provision forcing a decision by President Barack Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. In response to massive public opposition to the project, the Obama administration in November delayed a decision until 2013 to allow for more review of the pipeline’s environmental and human consequences.   

“We hope President Obama will keep his promise to reject the Keystone pipeline if forced to make a rushed decision within 60 days,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a lawsuit this fall to stop premature work on the pipeline in Nebraska. “The Keystone XL pipeline is an environmental disaster in the making. The question is not if the pipeline will spill, but when it will spill. If that isn’t enough, the pipeline will move dirty tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico where it can be exported to global markets. By any measure, this pipeline is not in the national interest.”

Tens of thousands of Americans have expressed overwhelming opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, yet Congress is bending over backwards to appease well-funded lobbyists for the oil and gas industry. Claims by congressional Republicans that the pipeline will create anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 jobs are grossly inaccurate with the State Department’s own documents showing the pipeline will create, at most, about 5,000 temporary jobs and few permanent jobs.

“Congressional Republicans are holding millions of struggling Americans who need the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits hostage to benefit their big oil campaign contributors,” said Greenwald. “A permit denial would be just desserts for a wayward Congress that seeks to cut the public out of the Keystone decision and to subvert environmental review that protects our land, air and water.”

The State Department’s own environmental review states that spills from Keystone XL are likely, estimating their frequency at about two spills per year throughout the pipeline’s 50-year lifespan. The pipeline route passes through habitat for imperiled species like the pallid sturgeon and piping plover and crosses the Yellowstone, Missouri, Platte and other iconic rivers as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides fresh water for agriculture and millions of people. 

In Alberta, Canada tar sands development threatens to destroy an area of boreal forest the size of Florida, pollutes three barrels of freshwater for every barrel of oil in the process creating toxic sludge ponds so big they can be seen from space, and emits two to three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil to extract and refine.     

“Any way you cut it, Keystone XL is bad news. It threatens people, wildlife, pristine natural landscapes and will push us even deeper in the global climate crisis,” said Greenwald. “This project, in good conscience, can’t move ahead.”

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