Responding to President Obama's declared intention to veto a bill that would force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, House Speaker John Boehner in a press release made numerous claims that can't stand up to scrutiny.
Annotating Speaker Boehner's release is as good a way as any to underscore what's really at stake with Keystone XL and what isn't. So let's review his statement:
Boehner statement: "Fringe extremists in the president's party are the only ones who oppose Keystone, but the president has chosen to side with them instead of the American people."
FACT: What the Speaker sees as a fringe turns out to look a lot more like Americans from all walks of life including many mainstream experts.
Here are some of the wide diversity of voices who have stepped up to oppose the project:
- Over one hundred climate scientists and climate economists.
- Six unions including the National Nurses Union, the United Electrical Workers, Amalgamated Transit Union, National Domestic Workers Alliance.
- Two million comments were sent in during the public reviwe process (far more than who weighed in for the pipeline) including over 140 public interest groups.
- Veterans,and over one hundred mayors from across the country.
- Over two hundred businesses that finance, create, or work in the development of more than 1,700 companies, the American Sustainable Business Council representing over 1,000 business owners, and the Green Business Network and the Green Chamber of Commerce representing 5,000 small businesses.
- Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers living along the proposed pipeline route, including the National Congress of American Indian, the largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.
- Faith-based groups including over 150 clergy from diverse faith traditions and regions as well as the National Black Church Initiative.
- Youth leaders, students, and former Obama organizers.
- World leaders including the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, Vice-President Al Gore, Archbishop Demond Tutu (see Nobel Laureate letters from 2011, 2013 and 2014).
- Tens of thousands of Canadians have weighed in against the pipeline including Canada's largest energy union.
Boehner Statement: "the government's own scientific evidence that this project is safe for the environment..."
FACT: While a Final Environmental Impact Statement has been released, the State Department has NOT issued a decision about whether the project is in the national interest, which includes consideration of whether the project is safe for the environment. The scientific evidence is that tar sands oil is significantly more carbon intensive than conventional and that Keystone XL could add a significant additional amount of carbon pollution to the atmosphere equivalent to putting 5.7 million passenger vehicles on the road for the life time of the project. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has raised concerns again and again not only about the carbon pollution impacts of the project but also air pollution and threats to water from a pipeline spill. Even the State Department's review acknowledged that a spill of tar sands from the pipeline posed unique risks to water. TransCanada safety record remains problematic and the risk of a spill from the pipeline is not a matter of if but when.
Boehner statement: "His [President Obama's] answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs."
FACT: The President's well-grounded skepticism about Keystone XL being a major job creator hardly indicates a general lack of support of infrastructure, energy, and jobs. Just this week, the Washington Post skewered pipeline pushers' claims that the project would create thousands of jobs. The President has been right to set the pipeline's job creation in the right context. According to the company that would build the pipeline, the project would create 35 permanent jobs and 1,950 temporary construction jobs. While any job is a good job, policies in support of clean energy could create far more jobs.
President Obama has set the record straight:
"If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy. I'm happy to have that conversation."
In truth, there has been substantial job growth creation from investments in clean energy and in driving down oil demand. The administration is pursuing aggressive efforts to drive job growth by investing in clean energy. For example, the administration's fuel economy standards are creating new jobs while energy efficiency. The solar economy has grown more than 50 percent since 2010 and now employs 143,000 works.
The facts reveal a very different picture that what is painted by the Speaker. As Congress considers legislation to force approval, they must consider how millions of Americans from all walks of life oppose the pipeline because it presents a risk to the environment, public safety, and the pursuit of a clean energy economy - and very little reward.
Speaker Boehner's full statement can be found here.