State Department review spurs rallies across country asking President to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

KXL Rally banners credit NRDC Kistner.jpg

The State Department released its environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline amidst a flurry of industry spin. Although the first wave of stories reported that the review “paved the way” for approval, many of these stories came out before the assessment was even published. Reading the State Department’s environmental review shows that for the first time it acknowledges that Keystone XL could drive tar sands expansion and climate change. The release of the environmental review has spurred folks from across the country to organize local community vigils on February 3 to let the President know that for the harm it will bring to our climate, land, waters and health, Keystone XL is the wrong choice for America and it should be denied.

NRDC is working with our partners CREDO, Sierra Club, and many others to help voices from across the country be heard on this crucial issue. People from all over the United States have spoken out at rallies and protests against Keystone XL many times over the last few years. The more people learn about what Keystone XL means for their climate, water, land, and health, the more concerned they are. The over 200 vigils taking place in almost every state in the nation on February 3 will send a clear message to the President that we trust he will do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Why do we say that the President has the grounds to reject Keystone XL? Once you read the final environmental review, you can see that it lays the groundwork for a failing grade for Keystone XL on a number of issues including climate. You’ll remember that last summer President Obama set out a climate test for this dirty energy project. The State Department report for the first time shows how Keystone XL could make a significant contribution to climate change.   

This is not a “he said, she said” situation. The State Department lays out a number of scenarios. Taking a closer look, we see that in one very realistic scenario, the report acknowledges that Keystone XL could drive tar sands expansion and the associated climate pollution. This is significant and gives President Obama what he needs to reject the pipeline. The relevant scenario reflects the low oil prices such as are anticipated by the International Energy Agency. It also reflects the pipeline constraints anticipated by this very report. For example, the State Department got it right when they decided no longer to consider the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline crossing British Columbia as viable and when they said that the proposed Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion to Vancouver is logistically difficult. Even more, this scenario reflects what we are hearing again and again from the industry itself: that Keystone XL will drive tar sands expansion. It should come as no surprise. This is why industry wants Keystone XL so badly.

Does this report represent a sound environmental analysis? No. There are many weaknesses. Does it make specific recommendations? No – the State Department Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones reiterated that the report “is not a decision document. And it does not make any recommendations about approving or denying the application.” Does it provide enough ground for the President to reject the pipeline? Yes, absolutely. My colleague Danielle Droitsch has done an excellent analysis of many of the ways in which the final environmental review shows the harm Keystone XL would bring. And watch for the next post by my colleague Anthony Swift with an even more detailed assessment of the State Department’s review.

What is critical to remember is that the decision-making period for this project is not yet over. We now move into the national interest determination process that will last at least several months or longer. After that, it is up to President Obama when to make a decision.

So send a message to the President asking that he reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline at And join one of the vigils around the country February 3 – showing the President that we have his back in standing up to the oil industry by rejecting this dirty energy project.

Photo credit: NRDC Rocky Kistner