What’s Next for the Keystone XL Pipeline Debate
Environmental activists were heartened by the recent news that the State Department is delaying a decision on the proposed construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline while the project undergoes an independent review—a process that likely won’t be complete until 2013.
Environmental groups, which have organized against the project for the past several months, claimed victory, arguing that the delay would likely deter investors from the supporting the project. Moreover, climate activists said, if reviewers are required to include climate change impacts in the assessment, the pipeline will have a harder time gaining approval under the new process.
Now just a few days later, the victory appears less certain.
TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement with Nebraska officials to reroute the pipeline around the ecologically sensitive area of Sand Hills, which is likely to ease the fears of Nebraskans concerned about the safety of the Ogalalla acquifer.
But while the State Department has confirmed that any deal struck in Nebraska will not affect the federal review process, by addressing one of the major concerns raised by protesters and weakening the opposition to the pipeline, the agreement may improve the chances of the pipeline’s final approval.
And while President Obama has indicated he will consider climate change in making the final decision, his official statement regarding the State Department delay did not specifically mention climate.
Indeed, some have speculated that the delay of the pipeline decision was simply a move to put off the decision and derail the protesters’ momentum. And in the meantime, some members of the House of Representatives have discussed options for passing legislation for speeding up the review process, though such efforts are unlikely to make it through the Senate.
But the organizations that led the movement against the pipeline say that the agreement in Nebraska does nothing to protect the climate, and say they’ll be ready to mobilize again if the administration decides to approve the pipeline.
Climate organization 350.org is asking its supporters to sign a pledge to “take nonviolent action” to stop the pipeline if the project is approved. Meanwhile, other groups, including the National Resources Defense Council and Tar Sands Action, are now focusing on helping Canadian activists block other tar sands-related projects.
The anti-Keystone movement has galvanized a lot of attention and support over the past few months, with 1,253 protesters arrested at a sit-in outside the White House in August and more than 10,000 people encircling the White House in protest about a week ago.
But the struggle is not over yet. If you’ve been part of the movement against the pipeline or are concerned about its clear environmental effects, stay tuned. Activists have made it clear: There’s a lot more to come.
Alyssa Battistoni is a staff writer for Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter at @alybatt.