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Keystone XL Pipeline Veto: Right Decision at the Right Time

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Director of Programs, Washington, D.C.

KXL Veto Rally c SCL NRDC.jpg

Recently President Obama vetoed a bill that would have approved the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The president has our heartfelt thanks for showing his leadership and making the right decision to veto this misguided bill.

We don’t need Congress to be a pipeline permitting agency. And, there’s a good process in place that gives the president the task to decide whether transboundary energy projects are in the national interest. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has repeatedly been shown to be dangerous to our water, communities and climate. And it makes no economic sense, putting the livelihoods of American farmers and ranchers at risk while only creating 35 permanent U.S. jobs.

The veto puts the decision about whether or not to permit Keystone XL squarely back in the president’s hands which is where the American people want it. And the Administration has all the information it needs about how this project is all risk and no reward. The stage is now set for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as against our national interest.

People from across the country strongly support president’s veto and want to see the pipeline rejected once and for all. The same day as the bill made it way to the White House, a diverse coalition of pipeline opponents sent a “Unity Letter” urging President Obama to veto the legislation, and reject the pipeline permit altogether. The letter is signed by more than 100 high-profile artists, elected officials, labor unions, progressive organizations, landowners and climate activists.

The president said he would reject Keystone XL if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We know that the energy-intensive tar sands generate 17 percent more carbon emissions than conventional oil. And we know that Keystone XL would be a major driver of tar sands expansion. EPA’s recent comments on the Keystone XL environmental review confirmed that the project would result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This conclusion echoing a recent study in Nature finding that tar sands expansion is inconsistent with efforts to minimize the warming of our climate to 2 degrees Celsius – which is why over 90 scientists and economists recently urged the Administration to reject Keystone XL.

Other pipelines slated to cross Canada to the west and east are also not being built because the Canadian people themselves don’t want the dangers of tar sands oil spills and climate change in their communities. Tar sands by rail has proven too expensive to be an economically viable substitute for either producers or rail companies.

We can clearly see how dependent tar sands expansion is on access to overseas markets by the number of major oil companies including Shell, Statoil, and Total that have cancelled over a million barrels per day in planned tar sands expansion because of a lack of pipelines over the past year. In fact, just this week, Shell announced that it will shelve its proposed 200,000 barrel per day Pierre River tar sands mining project.

With the attempt by Congress to approve Keystone XL behind us, it is time to move ahead and strike a blow against climate change with rejection of this tar sands pipeline. It’s certainly not the time to invest in a project that would tie us to this dirty fuel for the next forty or fifty years. It is time to move ahead and build the clean energy future we know can power our country into the twenty first century.

The Keystone XL approval bill veto is the right decision at the right time. Although only the third veto from this president, it is likely that other such vetoes will follow as this Congress follows its Big Polluter Agenda with additional attempts to undermine our health, air, land, water and climate. President Obama rightly draws a line in the sand by vetoing this first destructive bill.

Content Discussion

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on February 26, 2015


Amazing, one of only a few bi-partisan bills to get through the dysfunctional House and Senate in almost a decade and it is vetoed.   If the President had any real leadership and acted on what he says he believes, he would have had the application denied over five years ago.  I wish all of our politician’s would just be honest and say the real reasons why they do what they do.  It would be nice if they would provide a list of the oil sources with good rationale on what methods or countries that they have determined to be righteous enough to be consumed by our country. (Fracking, deep ocean drilling, corn ethanol, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, Mexico.   I am an advocate on working to minimize our consumption of fossil fuels but to tell our friendly neighbor Canada to pound sand for a pipeline while subsidizing terrorism and our soldier’s lives for middle east oil doesn’t make much sense. I guess we can only expect the leadership that we elect and we elect those who are most like us.  I am embarrassed. 


Lewis Perelman's picture
Lewis Perelman on March 5, 2015

Obama’s veto continues the pattern of deferring an actual decision for procedural reasons. 

The veto fell short of being overturned in the Senate by only 4 votes. If Obama ultimately acts to block completion of KXL, do not be surprised if legislation negating his action passes the Congress by veto-proof majorities.