What’s Next For Climate Movement After Keystone XL Victory

Oily politicians House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Alberta Premier Allison Redford meet to promote the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Obama administration’s decision to add a likely fatal delay to approving the Keystone XL pipeline defied pundits who bet on the pipeline’s approval as recently as two weeks ago. The decision to redo the environmental and national interest assessment is a major victory for the climate movement, the result of tireless work from indigenous groups, youth climate activists, Nebraska progressives, landowners, labor leaders, and Obama supporters who drew a line in the sand.

The fight is far from over. Canada’s right-wing government is still trying with all its might to pump out the oil sands to China and the rest of the global oil market. TransCanada and Alberta Premier Allison Redford are trying to salvage the Keystone XL pipeline, desperately seeking ways to get approval to build within six to nine months. Redford even met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to discuss the pipeline, turning a diplomatic issue into a partisan attack.

Numerous alternate routes for getting the tar sands crude to Texas refineries are in development, when and if TransCanada’s pipeline is killed. No single project matches the 700,000 barrel-per-day throughput of Keystone XL, though their combined effect would be greater:

Enbridge’s Monarch project is intended to transport up to 480,000 bpd of crude in a 24″ pipeline from Cushing, OK to the Houston, TX.

The 30″ Seaway pipeline, a joint venture of Enterprise Products Partners and ConocoPhillips, currently runs from Freeport, TX, to Cushing, but flow could be reversed to ship 200,000 bpd of Canadian crude.

CN’s “PipelineOnRail” oil-tanker train system could ship as many as 200,000 bpd to the Gulf of Mexico.

An analysis of the Keystone XL project conducted by Ensys for the Department of Energy finds that these projects would need to be stopped if the tar sands are to stay in the ground:

Production levels of oil sands crudes would not be affected by whether or not KXL is built. (It would take a total moratorium on new pipeline – and also rail – capacity.)

In Nebraska, the Keystone XL special session is continuing. Jane Kleeb, one of the leaders of the Cornhusker movement against TransCanada’s invasion of their state, said, “Now, more than ever, the Legislature needs to take action on behalf of the citizens of Nebraska. They have run out of excuses.” Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen said, “Nebraska must use this welcome window of opportunity to claim its routing and siting authority so that the interests of our water, soil, and especially our landowners can be protected.”

In the New York Times, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Michael Levi sneeringly described the Nebraska movement against the quasi-legal depredations of the foreign oil company against their state as “shortsighted” NIMBYism. The Nebraskans “simply did not want a pipeline running through their backyards,” Levi writes, dismissing the ecological, economic, and political concerns that galvanized them.

The grassroots organization that put together the White House arrests this summer that galvanized the movement, Tar Sands Action, is not backing down. Their site has a “pledge to take nonviolent action against the pipeline,” with signers “the first to know about anything we need to do down the road.”


Levi notes on Twitter that he called environmentalists “shortsighted,” not Nebraskans. He instead said that creating a low-carbon economy will “require defeating the same sort of local opposition” as the Nebraska response to Keystone XL.

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