Harry Reid Blasts “Unsustainable and “Dirty” Keystone XL Pipeline in Letter to Hillary Clinton

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is weighing in on Keystone XL, the controversial 1,700 mile pipeline that would bring carbon-intensive crude across the U.S. from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month, Reid expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project. The Washington Post reported on the October 5th correspondence:

“The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported,” Reid wrote.

Reid has been a strong supporter of clean energy and has maintained that support during a time of severe Congressional backlash against government incentives for the sector. But this is the first time he has publicly given his opinions on the Keystone XL Pipeline — a project that has united environmental activists and split the Democratic party.

Some Congressional Democrats have remained silent on the issue, waiting for the State Department to make a decision. Others have thrown their support behind the pipeline, which they say will create jobs and boost tax revenues.

Meanwhile, the environmental community is putting heavy pressure on the Obama Administration to delay or abandon Keystone XL, calling it “game over for the climate.” They’re also highlighting the immense conflicts of interest within the State Department and the proposed builder, TransCanada — pointing out that the agency outsourced the environmental review of the project to a TransCanada contractor.

Many see this as the ultimate test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to combating climate change. Harry Reid, one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, appears to see it that way too.

22 Responses to Harry Reid Blasts “Unsustainable and “Dirty” Keystone XL Pipeline in Letter to Hillary Clinton

  1. Sasparilla says:

    It’s nice to see the pressure building against the XL expansion – it’d be great to get it killed. The oil companies involved with the pipeline really want it because they could start charging Brent Crude prices at the Gulf of Mexico refineries instead of the West Texas Intermediate price their getting with the Keystone 1 (they’d get about $25 more a barrel).

    “Game over for the climate” doesn’t refer to the XL pipeline extension but to the exploitation of the tar sands oil itself.

    Anyone who sees this as the ultimate test of the Obama administration commitment to combating climate hasn’t been watching what has been going on since this administration came into office – they already failed, miserably.

    The administration, in its first months, approved the Keystone 1 tar sands pipeline (June 2009 and now operating and supplying almost 10% of US oil imports with the dirtiest oil in the world to US midwest refiners and drivers) and then the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline (August 2009).

    Stopping the XL would be great (I want it canceled), but we shouldn’t delude ourselves – we’d just be exploiting the game over tar sands oil a little slower (30 % or so) than if the XL goes forward – the tar sands game over for the climate train left the station in 2009 when this administration approved the two tar sands pipelines and flunked the test.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Ultimate Test

    I do see Obama’s Keystone XL decision as the ultimate test of his commitment to address climate change, at least the central “ultimate test” that will be available to us before we decide how, or whether, to vote.

    This is my view: If Obama approves Keystone XL, I won’t be voting for him this time around. I did last time, when he promised, in essence, that he would not approve such things as Keystone XL.

    So I’m not merely saying “Please Mr. President”. Nor am I saying “Live up to your promises, Mr. President, or else I’ll be upset (but will vote for you anyhow).” None of that, for me.

    I’ve offered to state a case for this stance, from my own perspective, here on CP, for folks to consider and debate, but to no avail. Who knows: perhaps my proposed post was too long? Sometimes — often — I’m not the most eloquent or efficient of writers, that’s for sure. But I do hope that someone states the case, or allows it to be raised and discussed. The question is too important to ignore.

    I hope to attend a “NO to Keystone XL” event next Tuesday when the President is in San Francisco. I’m doing just about all that I can do. But one of the main things I think many people should do is to take this stance — i.e., that Obama must say ‘NO’ to Keystone XL if he wants our votes, and that if he approves Keystone XL, he won’t get them.

    In any case … Be Well,


  3. Aleph Null says:

    You succinctly articulate an attitude which many people share. It would be constructive if McKibben’s Tarsands Action organization were more open to your simple statement, which can be paraphrased:

    “This is my breaking point. If you approve this pipeline, I cannot give you my vote.”

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    That’s a great way to paraphrase it, Aleph. It captures the feeling very well. Thanks.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    So, you vote for Perry, who promises to end all pollution regulation? You can be sure that under Perry, Keystone will be remembered as a positive option.

    Or do you intend to stay home, not voting at all?

  6. Leif says:

    I think that Sheldon Whitehouse should mount a primary bid and I think the OWS should take up his speech as a banner. Roll out a tape loop at the Demonstrations. Any chance it could be presented on the Times Square video? No votes lost in the primary and it should put the proper fear under Obama’s belt. At least it would add needed dimension to the dialog.

  7. Laurie Dougherty says:

    Very glad to see the pressure mounting in Congress. I have seen several articles mentioning one or another such letter with varying numbers given for co-signers. Does anyone have a list off which members of Congress have sent or signed letters opposing Keystone XL.

    My sympathies are with Jeff Huggins in wanting to draw a line in the (tar) sand on this. But prokaryotes states the dilemma we face. (It could be Obama v Romney, but there is no predicting where Romney will end up at any given time on any given issue.)

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Very well said Laurie (and Jeff).

    With regards to Romney alot depends on the makeup of the congress and senate.

    If the Dems hold the Senate then the damage probably wouldn’t be too bad (since they could block alot), but if the GOP captures the Senate and the House then gets to send its garbage all the way through even with Romney it’ll be awful for climate change and green energy….ol’ hopey changey would probably start looking pretty good in comparison at that point simply because he might veto some things (if he didn’t try to outflank them to the right first).

    The Dems have alot more seats up for re-election in the Senate in 2012 than the Republicans do making their hold on the Senate majority vulnerable.

  9. Leif says:

    Do you think that if the Left puts up a good show in the coming Demonstrations that we can slam dunk this before the election? At least get some standing in the media? Change the dialog? It will have to be blow there minds big, but what’s to lose.

  10. John McCormick says:

    23 Dem senators up for relection and a few are open seats. 10 rethugs. Place your bets on a rethug Senate.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for stepping up, Senator Reid, especially since there are big mining and construction interests in your state. We’re starting to get an army, and you and Whitehouse couldn’t be better officers.

  12. Hank says:

    Just an observation here;
    From what I can gather, it’s not the pipeline that’s ‘dirty’ it’s the oil, right? While I realize that the pipeline has become a rallying point for the environmental movement in the US, stopping the pipeline will NOT stop the sale of tar sands oil. If we don’t buy it someone else definitely will.
    Why not try to stop the tar sands oil at it’s source in Canada?

  13. John Tucker says:

    Probably they made up their minds and this is just the public argument for the decision. I cant see this being spontaneous. I think Reed works closely with the administration (Yucca mountain favors for instance).

    Fortunately it looks like a no go for the pipeline despite the earlier state department help it got, and if so, the political backlash from the right and the petroleum sector is going to be epic, on all fronts.

  14. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Or would you help to find and elect a viable candidate via a primary challenge ?

    It appears to me that discussion of not voting for Obama – let alone of mounting an effective primary challenge – has yet to be encouraged here on CP. This seems a pity, as reasons for sticking with Obama need to be weighed on their merits, not merely adopted as the lame-default option – particularly with his actual re-election prospects receding by the week.



  15. Joan Savage says:

    If the Keystone XL gets blocked due to political pressure, that does not mean ‘game won,’ just because it isn’t ‘game over.’

    The Utah tar sands alone are estimated to have 12 to 19 billion barrels.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    I believe that Obama will go strong on the topic of climate change. And that he will be re-elected. People need to judge the overall spectrum of his decision making, not just making their choice based on one or a view circumstances.

    It is good that there are protests against the Keystone pipeline, but what is required is a total phase out of fossil resources. Thus requires a broad range of laws to regulate. This is about to happen within the next years.

    The truth is that the Republican party is done, they have no credibility left. All what they have now is the oil/coal lobby, subsidies and elected members of current terms. Which will be withdrawn, because the system which it is depends on is no longer applicable in the real world.

    What we witness now is a paradigm shift and geopolitical re-arrangements. The outcome will be either localized actions or more likely global actions to combat climate change.

    However, the Obama administration should diversify the pool of experts, not just depend on 1 or 2 advisors on the topic of climate change.

    Climate change is a fundamental law of physics in the natural world, which every intelligent evolving species faces at some point. This is bigger then most people realize. What we have to do now is give progressive governments our support and hope that our actions are successful. The future of the human race is at stake guys!

    We need a jump in Evolution to counter Climate Disruption!

  17. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    My $0.03 (US), $0.02 (CA & EU)…
    As I peer through the haze in my crystal ball I see the following possible outcomes for the 2012 election:

    1. Obama signs Keystone XL; #OWS,, etc. stay home on election day; Romney becomes pres.; The Republicons also win control of the senate; an empowered, lunatic fringe, asylum occupying Reich Wing blocks climate legislation; the old fossils have their way with tar sands, Bakken, deepwater, Arctic, ANWR, fracking, etc; the world’s climate passes irreversible tipping points; and the world catches fire. This, IMHO is the worst case scenario.

    2. Obama doesn’t sign Keystone XL (or at least holds off until after the election); the DNR co-opts the #OWS movement by convincing them (and 350, and many others) that their second term will be different from the first – better, much better; but the Republicons retain the House and possibly win the Senate; and we get the same tar sands, Bakken, ANWR, depwater, fracking, etc. as in scenario #1, but at a bit slower pace. This “second-worse” scenario allows us another four years to righteously (and rightly) bitch about all the things we’ve been bitching about for years. And 2016 becomes a last chance… sorry, the crystal ball is only good for about a year out.

    3. (The best case scenario) #OWS slows down a bit for the winter, but catches holy hell fire in the spring; it goes worldwide (and should, because the US elections have a profound affect on the entire world); #OWS co-opts the DNR, dragging Obama, et. al. to the left, returning us to a true 2-party system instead of the current 1.1 party system; the “US v. THEM” campaign (and lets face it, it really is us v. them – no more of this bullshit flavored pablum) results in an 80%+ turnout; Democrats regain the House, and a 60+ majority in the Senate (OK, this is probably a wet dream), and not your spineless, corporate Democrats, but real Democrats – Democrats (BHO included) with backbone who’ve had the fear of God put into them; and we get what we want in climate legislation, alternate energy support, a true liberal agenda – indeed, we get what the world needs… now!

    In closing, I can certainly sympathize with Jeff’s position. If this were 1980, and we had a decade or so to actually get started with climate legislation, it might be a good strategy to let the bad guys have the reigns as a demonstration of horribleness to the thick skulled American electorate. In fact, the GOP sort of did this in 2008, allowing the Dems four years to clean up Dubya’s mess all-the-while affixing blame for the mess on the Dems (better yet, a black man in the White House) as a strategy for winning four years hence. But I’m afraid we don’t have four years to wait, especially four years of the “superfossilization” an empowered Reich
    Wing would give us, as per scenario #1. The only hope (a curious word, I know) is to work toward scenario #3. Occupy the DNC!


  18. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joan –

    If Keystone gets blocked, the GOP would be handed an ideal gift of an issue for 2012 – particularly given the probability of an oil-price spike boosting gas prices during next year. – A double-dip recession, and a gas-price hike, and Obama actually cancelled the Keystone jobs-&-oil project ???

    Those who strive to maximize pressure on Obama to block the pipeline should thus acknowledge that their entirely justifiable campaign would, if successful, perhaps critically diminish his very dicey re-election prospects – and even if unsuccessful will clearly diminish them somewhat due to the highlighting of his misconduct discouraging the enviro vote.

    The implication is that campaigning against Keystone logically demands a parallel campaign for a viable primary challenge, to establish a presidential candidate without Obama’s severe political baggage – who can wrong-foot and see off the GOP’s choice. Noted liberals such as Whitehouse are, sadly, the least suitable for that role.



  19. prokaryotes:

    As someone once said, “Hope is not a method”.

    It’s now clear that if you want Obama — or any other would-be US President — to serve your interests, you have to fight to make it happen, not just “hope” that it’ll happen.

    Ever wondered why there’s a “paradigm shift and geopolitical rearrangements”? It’s precisely because a whole mass of people — the people who now make up the Occupy Wall Street movement — are no longer accepting “hope” as an answer.

    — frank

  20. Joan Savage says:

    I wouldn’t go down the road of a primary challenge. In American politics, an incumbent party often loses its grip on the Presidency if there is a primary fight.

  21. John Tucker says:

    I agree pk – you have to remember that the republican party isnt based in reason. Its not anti ¨big government¨, its not even necessarily ¨pro-business¨ or always anti regulation.

    Its conservative.

    It is a like a piece of amber frozen in a block of ice that is classical modernity.

    Its just reached a point to where with respect to society and environment its anti innovation.

    On the right it only matters if something is perceived as being done the way it has always been.

    Incidentally my issue with the populist left is its locked in perpetual set of dogmatic and reductive Christian apologist type arguments. ( ). Also I think that is about to change, and is why the OWS movement is so purposefully vague. But thats a whole other can of worms.

  22. John Tucker says:

    Or – I dont know how possible this is, but recently I have been considering a possible option 4 occurring – Congress somehow removes or overrides authority from the EPA and the president and passes it.