31 january 2014

Pipeline Opponents’ Hopes Now Rest Largely on Kerry

By SARAH WHEATON and CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times, JAN. 31, 2014

WASHINGTON — Environmental activists have not been shy in their fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. They have wrapped a giant pipeline around the White House fence, marched on Washington in the frigid cold, been arrested, and followed President Obama around the country to press their concerns while raising millions of dollars for the cause.

So on Friday, they largely dismissed the findings of a long-awaited State Department review that concluded the project — which would send 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast — would have little impact on the rate of development of oil sands. It was another signal that Mr. Obama may approve the project, although the official decision is in the hands of Secretary of State John Kerry.

The final report largely echoed the conclusions in earlier reports that the pipeline would not affect greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is about what we were expecting,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, reflecting the view of opponents that the review process has been biased in favor of the pipeline because its contractor has ties to the oil industry.

The industry itself celebrated the report.

“The study is welcome news and validates the important benefits” of the pipeline, Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell Oil, said in an email. “We remain confident Keystone will be determined to be in the best interest of the country — clearing the way for the project to go forward.”

Karen Harbert, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said, “If the final decision is based on facts, then it’s a go.”

Still, opponents of the pipeline found some encouragement in the report, in passages that subtly vindicated their warnings.

“This report today reflects some grudging movement,” said Bill McKibben of 350.org, a group that has made opposition to the pipeline its signature issue.

Activists pointed to a line in the report contending that the “total direct and indirect emissions associated with the proposed project would contribute to cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions.”

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. McKibben said, “This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project.”

Pipeline opponents said they were now hanging their hopes on Mr. Kerry, who is expected to issue his conclusion on the pipeline in the coming months. An executive order signed by President George W. Bush gave the secretary of state the final say on cross-border pipeline projects.


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