Keystone XL Bill Heads to Obama's Desk Today, Pipeline Opponents Urge a Veto
“I would anticipate, as we’ve been saying for years, that the president will veto that legislation, and he will, so I would not anticipate a lot of drama or fanfare around it,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told The Hill.
Republicans say a veto will not be the end. "The allure of appeasing environmental extremists may be too powerful for the president to ignore," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in an op-ed published this morning in USA Today. "But the president is sadly mistaken if he thinks vetoing this bill will end this fight. Far from it."
Other Republicans and some Democratic supporters of the pipeline echo the sentiments of Sen. McConnell and Rep. Boehner. “We’ll soon learn where American workers and energy independence fall on President Obama’s priority list,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
The Obama administration argues the bill "circumvents the ongoing process at the State Department," which the president has said he "wants to be allowed to play out," according to The Hill. The pipeline has been under federal review for six years, going through roughly five environmental impact statements.
The GOP is already making plans to override the veto. "Right now, 63 senators back the pipeline, but 67 would be needed to override Obama," said The Hill. "In the House the path to a veto-proof majority—or two-thirds—is harder." If they don't have the votes to override it, Republicans want to "try to attach approval for the project to a broader energy package or an appropriations bill," which is harder for the president to veto, The Hill reported.
With Republicans in Congress adamant about passing this bill, a diverse coalition of pipeline opponents that includes artists, elected officials, landowners, labor unions, progressive organizations, Tribal Nations and climate activists sent a Unity Letter urging President Obama to reject the pipeline. The letter was signed by many well known people, including Willie Nelson, Mark Ruffalo, Neil Young, Julianne Moore, Robert Redford, Alec Baldwin, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Michael Brune, Sen. Whitehouse and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. Watch Reich's latest video on the Keystone XL pipeline here:
The letter lays out three key points as to why the president must veto the bill:
- First, most of those who care about this project oppose it, and with an intensity matched by few issues in recent time.
- Second, it’s now clearer than ever that the tar sands pose an incredible risk to the health and safety of our families and a livable planet.
- Third, the arguments for this pipeline—never strong—have disappeared on closer examination.
The coalition also cited a major study in Nature last month, which confirmed that "a serious effort to control global warming must keep the ‘dirtiest oil in the world’ safely underground." The pipeline opponents argue therefore that "Keystone XL must be evaluated not just as a pipeline but as part of the tar sands industry's plans for rapid and reckless expansion."
Click here to tell President Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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