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Big Oil’s Last Minute Ad Blitz on Keystone Failed to Bully President

Posted by Jessica Meeder on January 2, 2012 in Legal

President Obama, refusing to be bullied by Big Oil, has rejected the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL Pipeline. He’s put bullies where all bullies need to be: Time Out.

Once again, the President has placed our true national interest—the health and safety of citizens, our drinking water, our air, and our lands—above the interests of Big Oil. The decision also affirms the President’s commitment to a cleaner and more secure energy future.

Those of us living in DC and key electoral battleground states know just how much Big Oil cared about this decision. We were inundated in the last few weeks with more than $600,000 worth of American Petroleum Institute ads declaring that the pipeline is in the country’s national interest. But these ads belied reality:

  • Tar sands oil is extremely corrosive. The pipelines that carry it are even more prone to spills than are conventional oil pipelines. Safety regulators have stated that they cannot guarantee that current standards can ensure that tar sands pipelines can operate safely.
  • Job creation estimates are iffy, at best. While Big Oil ads claimed that up to 20,000 jobs could be created by the pipeline, the company in line to build the pipeline says it will only create “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The State Department has estimated that the pipeline will create only about 20 permanent jobs.
  • The pipeline won’t increase U.S. energy independence. It will carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast so that it can then be shipped to foreign markets, not widely distributed throughout the U.S.

Because the pipeline crosses an international border, the State Department is required to determine whether the project is in the “national interest” before granting a permit. The Obama administration had planned to take another year to review the pipeline proposal, but late last year Congress imposed a February 21 deadline for this decision.

But the exact route of the pipeline has not yet been determined. Common sense dictates that you can’t make a decision about whether the pipeline is in the national interest if you don’t even know its route, and so don’t know what communities and environmentally sensitive areas might be most affected. Legal scholars have noted that allowing the pipeline to proceed without knowing its route would open the decision up to numerous potential legal challenges.

Despite the potential legal and political fallout, the President nonetheless showed great courage in standing up to Big Oil and rejecting this proposal.

While the deadline imposed by Congress probably left the President with no legal option but to reject the pipeline, we should still be impressed with Obama’s decision to stand up for the health and safety of citizens and the environment.

Meanwhile, the bullies of Big Oil have a “time out” in which to reconsider that the American people can’t be intimidated by slick, false sales pitches and that our President will take the lead.

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