More celebs urge Obama to reject pipeline, calling it 'a real-world test'

More than 100 boldface names on both sides of the northern border -- including actress Marisa Tomei, singer Joan Jett, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and the widow of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs -- today sent President Obama a new public plea to reject the Keystone XL pipeline as a statement of commitment to fighting climate change.

The new letter to Obama acknowledges a popular counterargument in favor of the $5.4 billion KXL, that the emissions generated by its 700,000-plus daily barrels of oil sands crude would represent a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, and dismisses it as a convenient way to sidestep the project's "substantively important" role as a means to lock in future production.

"It is a big, conspicuous example of what we must categorically avoid: long-term commitments that drive us deeper into fossil fuel dependence and keep us stuck there," wrote the letter's signatories, also headlined by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; Canadian author Margaret Atwood; and Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.

"Whether it is the ideal test of your administration's resolve on climate is beside the point. It is, as history would have it, the real-world test, the one that will for better or worse be remembered as the watershed."

Both sides in the long-running political battle over KXL are preparing for the State Department to release its final environmental impact statement on the 1,179-mile project before March, the anniversary of a draft edition that sparked the ire of greens by predicting that rail transportation of oil sands crude could fill much of the capacity gap opened by a presidential veto of the pipeline. That draft review is now the subject of an inspector general's inquiry into alleged conflicts of interest at the private contractor that prepared it, a wrinkle that 25 House Democrats cited last week in urging a delay in the release of the final edition (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12).


The vocal anti-pipeline stance of the signatories on today's letter could prove just as potent as the positions of House Democrats. Many are major campaign donors to Obama and other Democrats, including Esprit clothing company co-founder Susie Tompkins Buell and Stonyfield Farm Inc. Chairman Gary Hirshberg. Laurene Powell Jobs, whose husband steered Apple to supremacy before his 2011 death, is also carving out a political niche this year via support for immigration reform legislation.

Click here to read the new letter to Obama.