A coalition of 20 environmental groups took to the airwaves today in their escalating pushback against a $7 billion Canadian oil sands pipeline, launching a two-week ad campaign urging President Obama to "prevent the next oil disaster" by rejecting a permit for the project.
The green groups' ad buy, which includes time on three cable TV networks as well as online and Washington-area radio spots, is the latest volley in their increasingly coordinated effort to make the proposed Keystone XL pipeline a poster child for environmental risk in the wake of the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The commercial begins with a direct address to Obama: "You couldn't prevent the disaster in the Gulf," a narrator intones before asking the president to nix the Keystone XL project and charging that the pipeline would imperil "the Midwest's most important drinking water source."
The oil line would run for nearly 2,000 miles across six U.S. states, shipping upward of half a million barrels per day of crude from the Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
That Canadian crude is estimated by U.S. EPA to be more than 80 percent more carbon-intensive than conventional oil on a life-cycle basis, making Keystone XL anathema to environmentalists.
"This is a major piece of infrastructure that would lock us into dirty oil for decades," Kenny Bruno, campaign coordinator for Corporate Ethics International, said in an interview. "The Obama administration said we need to break our addiction [to oil] ... this pipeline would be the proverbial two steps back."
Bruno also directs the No Tar Sands Oil campaign, the alliance of 20 groups behind the new $200,000-plus ad push. The ads come as member groups in the coalition, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club, continue to roll out reports of their own aimed at heightening public awareness of the potential downside to the pipeline (Greenwire, Nov. 29).
But Keystone XL continues to command support from newly ascendant Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the Obama White House. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose department is set to decide early next year whether to allow the pipeline to cross the northern border, said last month that she is "inclined to" sign off on the project.
Bruno said Clinton's admission helped push the ad campaign into the open this week, though the spots may resume next year. "For us to wait any longer when we know the secretary is inclined to approve it -- we'd be in danger of waiting until a decision was fait accompli," he said.
Meanwhile, the pipeline's sponsor is meeting the green groups with a promotional push of its own. Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. reached out publicly to several members of Congress during the August recess.
The company also aimed to halt a push by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and others in his state for a supplemental environmental review that would examine the pipeline's effect on the delicate soil of the Ogallala Aquifer -- the drinking water source cited in the environmental groups' new commercial (Greenwire, Nov. 4).
A decision is expected soon from the State Department on that potential supplemental review, which is also backed by EPA and Democratic lawmakers who are aligned against the pipeline.
Click here to watch the TV ad asking Obama to reject the pipeline project.