President Obama yesterday got nudged from his left to nix the Keystone XL pipeline, as seven Democratic National Committee (DNC) members signed on to a resolution urging rejection of the controversial Canada-to-U.S. project on environmental, economic and national security grounds.
Authored by Maryland state legislator and Democratic national committeewoman Heather Mizeur -- who drew fire from the natural gas industry this year after pitching a bill to "pause" the extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing in the Free State -- the resolution won an endorsement from Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), a DNC vice chairman, as well as five other state-level DNC representatives. Its emergence on the heels of a two-week White House sit-in against Keystone XL suggests that liberals are coming to embrace the pipeline as a grass-roots touchstone and could portend more inter-party ire at Obama if the project is approved.
The 1,661-mile pipeline would nearly double U.S. imports of Canadian oil-sands crude, meaning a sizable new market for energy companies and new construction jobs for pro-XL unions. The fuel carried by XL also stands to generate more emissions than conventional crude, a factor singled out by backers of Mizeur's resolution in a summary of their goals released yesterday.
"The president alone has the authority to reject this pipeline," the summary states, echoing many of the anti-XL arguments made by green groups during a years-long clash over its still-pending permit bid with the State Department. The new pipeline, Mizeur's supporters add, "would increase carbon emissions, place one of America's largest aquifers in the line of danger, and do little to improve America's energy security."
DNC rules ask that resolutions come 21 days before an upcoming meeting in order to merit consideration, meaning that Mizeur's effort may not reach formal debate in the committee until after the Obama administration makes its final decision on Keystone XL.
Meanwhile, oil-industry supporters of the pipeline did not stay silent yesterday amid the new Democratic pressure on Obama. Making good on vows to ramp up its pro-XL lobbying and grass-roots efforts, the American Petroleum Institute (API) held a briefing with reporters to mark three years since sponsor TransCanada Corp. submitted its initial permit bid.
API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin used the opportunity to "strongly urge the administration to stick to its commitment" of a final ruling on the project before 2012, adding in a statement: "Obtaining energy from our friendly and reliable North American neighbor will reduce our imports from unstable regions of the world.
"Surely, enhancing our nation's energy security and providing thousands of new jobs has got to be in the best interest of all Americans."
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard slammed the Mizeur resolution as "misinformation," specifically challenging its claim that the XL line would present fresh danger to Nebraska's Ogallala Aquifer.
"Already 15,000 miles of oil pipelines cross that aquifer," many of them for decades, Howard said in an interview. "I'm not sure how a brand-new, high-tech pipeline is somehow going to jeopardize it."
Click here to read the DNC resolution.