Thousands of environmental activists flocked to the national mall on Sunday to protest proposed legislation for the Keystone XL pipeline project. If passed, a roughly 1,700 mile pipeline would be built from Alberta, Canada, across the American border into the U.S. Midwest. The pipeline would transport thousands of gallons of tar sands to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas, providing needed energy to the nation. However, the project has sparked a firestorm among environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, and other groups which claim the pipeline could hurt the ecosystem along which it would travel. The climate rally was among the largest of its kind in history, and may highlight growing public pressure against the pipeline which would force President Barack Obama to drop support for the project.
The Keystone project is sponsored by the contracting company TransCanada. The legislation’s official name, Keystone For A Secure Tomorrow Act was introduced to the House on Jan. 22. The bill seeks to approve a new permit request for construction of the project. In January 2012 President Obama initially rejected the plan after facing down GOP pressure, especially from Republicans in Congress to make a decision before the end of his first term. Now the legislation is being readdressed and environmental groups are anxiously awaiting a final decision.
Obama defended his actions, claiming that he simply did not have enough time to make an educated verdict.
"I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil" Obama said.
Obama’s delay on decision-making did not sit well with the GOP however. If Keystone XL finally gets denied, then an opportunity that could result in thousands of potential jobs would also fail. House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) remarked on the disappointing decision last January.
“The president had said he’ll do anything that he can to create jobs. Today, that promise was broken” remarked Boehner.
Now that the pipeline project may be on the verge of being green-lighted, thousands flocked to the Capitol in protest. The Sierra Club launched their rally “Forward on Climate” on Sunday and amassed an estimated 40,000 people. The term “forward” was strategic in that Obama helped coin the word in both his presidential campaigns.
The main outrage sparked by the pipeline plan is that it promotes the continuation of excess fossil fuel consumption. In an age where climate change is starting to dominate the national conversation, and with the Sierra Club being one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, environmentalists may be successful in their anti-pipeline push.
Obama may have to sacrifice massive job creation in the name of green energy. With the president’s recent promotion of sustainability and green technologies in his 2013 State of the Union address, Keystone XL may have little chance at approval from the Executive branch.