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For Immediate Release, March 21, 2012

Contacts:  Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, or (503) 484-7495
Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, or (202) 222-0722
Elijah Zarlin, CREDO Action, or (415) 369 2014

Coalition Slams Obama's Expediting of Southern Segment of Keystone XL

Environmental, Progressive Groups Condemn Trumpeting of
Tar Sands Pipeline That Will Worsen Climate Crisis

CUSHING, Okla. President Barack Obama’s touting today of an expedited review for the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline comes despite widespread public opposition to the project due to the severe risks it poses to our climate, air, water and wildlife, as well as indigenous and landowner rights. Specifically, the administration today announced — ahead of the president’s visit to a TransCanada pipe yard near Cushing, Okla. — that it will issue a memorandum to expedite federal environmental review for the southern portion. As the key link of the Keystone XL pipeline for the tar sands industry, the southern segment would transport the world’s dirtiest oil — tar sands oil — from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries, with much of it destined for global export. .  

“In expediting the southern leg of Keystone XL, President Obama has gone 180 degrees in the wrong direction in less than 180 days,” said Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “It’s inexcusable that the administration is cutting corners to support building this dirty tar sands oil pipeline in parts. The president cannot fulfill his promise to protect the climate and transition us to 21st century clean energy while bending over backward to help Big Oil companies tap the continent’s biggest carbon bomb. The southern segment would threaten our heartland with spills that pollute our air and water and hurt local economies.”

According to TransCanada, the southern leg will be used for exporting diluted bitumen — tar sands oil — after TransCanada tries again for a presidential permit to build other legs of Keystone XL that connect to the Alberta tar sands. 

“The Gulf Coast leg would add to the fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we critically need to transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just like Keystone I, the Gulf Coast leg of Keystone XL will spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for  endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, American burying beetle, interior least tern and Arkansas River shiner.”

Keystone 1, an existing pipeline in the same system in which Keystone XL would be built, has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of oil. Another tar sands pipeline spilled more than 1 million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. The Cushing-to-the-Gulf southern leg of Keystone XL would almost certainly spill, polluting and ruining important habitat for a number of federally protected endangered species and hindering their recovery.

“The president’s support for this pipeline is troubling,” said Greenwald. “Keystone XL may be a boon to Big Oil companies in the exporting business, but their profits will come at a stiff price for the environment.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed unprecedented opposition to Keystone XL, making it the biggest environmental test for the administration ahead of the 2012 elections. Last fall, more than 12,000 people surrounded the White House, and 1,253 people were arrested in front of it while actively opposing the pipeline. However, TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the pipeline vowed to reapply for a permit before the president today pledged to expedite the environmental review process.

 “In expediting the southern portion of Keystone XL, President Obama is trying to have it both ways,” said Becky Bond, political director at CREDO Action. “It is deeply disappointing that he can't even hold to the minimum standard for a full environmental review that he invoked when he rejected the full pipeline in January. Promoting the export portion of this pipeline will lead to higher gas prices in the United States and to the worst climate impacts of the pipeline. The president needs to prove that his initial rejection of Keystone XL wasn't simply a ploy to placate the environmental voters who dared to hold him to his own rhetoric about the need for real leadership on climate and our fossil fuel dependence.”


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