Environmental organizations and the oil-and-gas industry say one of the first litmus tests for President Obama's second term is his highly anticipated decision over a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, told reporters on Nov. 7 that environmental groups want the president to reject outright the extension of the $7-billion crude-oil pipeline from the Canadian tar sands through Nebraska and down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Brune added, “We do not see the expansion of the tar sands as being able to be reconciled in any way with any serious commitment to climate change.”
The American Petroleum Institute (API) agrees the Keystone pipeline decision will be a major test. Although it is hopeful the president will approve the revised Keystone XL Pipeline route, API is by no means a given. “It will be one of the early tests or early questions for the president [to see] if his actions will match his words,” API President Jack Gerard told reporters on Nov. 8.
Gerard said the new route avoids Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region, a key reason the pipeline was rejected early this year. Gerard says the local opposition “has now been cured, so the question now comes back to the administration … it’s really a political decision on the part of the administration if they’ll approve [the] Keystone XL pipeline.”
Some engineering and construction industry officials believe the project will be approved. Phil Mihlmester, executive vice president, global energy, for McLean, Va.-based ICF International, says, “I think that, ultimately, approval will be there.”
Both environmental and oil-and-gas groups claimed victory in the 2012 elections, although for different reasons.
Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said, “Big oil and other big polluters spent unprecedented amounts of big money to spread big lies—and they lost, big time.” President Obama and other “clean-energy champions” were big winners in the elections, he added.
For example, although Karpinski did not disclose how much environmental groups had spent overall to support clean energy or environmental efforts, he said that, collectively, several environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Environment America, had spent more than $2 million in the effort to elect Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) to retiring Jeff Bingaman’s (D) vacant New Mexico seat.