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For Immediate Release, January 18, 2012

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

Pipeline Would Have Transported Dirty Fossil Fuels, Resulted in 'Game Over' for Healthy Climate

WASHINGTON— President Barack Obama today denied the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, finding that building the pipeline is not in the national interest. Little mention was made of alternative routes currently being pushed by TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, and it appears they would have to begin the permit review process anew. 

“President Obama made the right decision in denying the Keystone XL pipeline today,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Keystone XL pipeline would have prolonged our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that are polluting our air, land and water, and kept us from stabilizing the climate by moving to a clean energy future.”

The decision has already come under attack by Republicans claiming it will cost “tens of thousands” of jobs. In fact, the State Department estimated that Keystone XL would result in just 20 permanent, operational jobs in the United States and 2,500 to 4,650 temporary jobs.

“It’s utterly ridiculous to claim that rejecting Keystone XL is killing off tens of thousands of jobs. The facts just don’t back that up,” Greenwald said.

The administration has come under heavy pressure from congressional Republicans and the oil industry to approve the pipeline. In December Republicans attached language onto must-pass legislation — extending payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits — that forced the administration to make a decision within 60 days, precipitating today’s decision. More recently, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, threatened that the president would face “huge political consequences” if he rejected the pipeline.

“In standing up to the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry today, President Obama heard the voice of the people and gave us new hope that we can set short-term business interests aside to do what’s right for the world and our children,” said Greenwald. “It’s vital that the president reject future proposals for tar-sands pipelines too, along with offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.”

Tens of thousands of Americans expressed opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, including an action in November in which at least 12,000 people surrounded the White House. In September the Center and partners filed a lawsuit challenging illegal construction on the pipeline prior to issuance of a permit, including movement of an endangered species, the American burying beetle. The Center is continuing with this litigation in order to compel TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, to mitigate the impacts of its illegal work on the beetle and Nebraska’s Sand Hills area.

“Sooner or later, destruction of the environment for resource extraction always leaves people poor in its wake,” said Greenwald. “Today’s a good day for the millions of Americans dependent on water from the Ogallala Aquifer and the many rivers crossed by the pipeline, who will no longer have to worry that a spill will pollute their water.”

Keystone XL would have transported dirty tar-sands oil 1,700 miles across six states and hundreds of water bodies, posing an unacceptable risk of spill. An existing pipeline called Keystone 1 has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled 800,000 gallons in the Kalamazoo River.

Strip mining of oil from Alberta’s tar sands is also destroying tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluting hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space. Extraction and refinement of tar-sands oil produces two to three times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil and represents a massive new source of fossil fuels that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid a climate catastrophe.

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