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President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

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President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill after it was sent to his desk today. It is the third time President Obama has used his veto power. But, the fight over the pipeline isn't over yet, as the U.S. State Department’s long approval process for the Keystone XL continues.

"Now, it’s time for the President to show he’s serious about his climate legacy by moving on to step two: rejecting this pipeline once and for all," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. Photo credit: 350.org

On Feb. 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate’s version of the Keystone XL pipeline bill by a vote of 270-152, the Senate passed the bill on Jan. 29 by a vote of 62-36. Neither the House nor the Senate have enough votes to override the President's veto of this controversial project. The bill was an effort by Congress to override the State Department's environmental review of the pipeline, which would have given TransCanada the authority to build the 875-mile project.

"In vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama is showing that he’s listened to the people, not the polluters," said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. "Just this week we’ve seen corporate interests exposed for spending over a million dollars on the science of climate denial. Enough is enough. The State Department needs to put the final nail in the coffin of Keystone XL, so we can focus on the real opportunity ahead: building America’s new, clean energy economy."

Today, a diverse coalition of pipeline opponents including 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 McKibbenMichael Brune, Sen. Whitehouse and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

“President Obama said he’d veto this attack on his executive authority, and he kept his word," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "That’s what he said he’d do from the start, but Republicans in Congress continued to waste everyone’s time with a bill destined to go nowhere, just to satisfy the agenda of their big oil allies."

White House officials have previously indicated that the President would veto the bill on the grounds that the State Department is still conducting its review of whether the massive pipeline would serve the national interest. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama will veto the bill because it goes around the State Department review and "circumvents a longstanding administrative process for evaluating whether or not infrastructure projects like this are in the best interest of the country."

“President Obama just stood up with farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations to protect our land and water," said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska. "The President's veto comes at a time when Republicans will do anything Big Oil asks, even if it means putting our families at-risk of water pollution. We call upon the President to use that same courage and leadership by rejecting the KXL permit once and for all.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would transport roughly 800,000 barrels of heavy crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. Opponents of the pipeline argue that the environmental risks are not worth the 35 permanent jobs that the pipeline would create. According to a blog post by Robert Redford, tar sands oil is the most carbon intensive fuel on the market. All told, the additional carbon pollution from this project would be as much as putting up to 5.7 million additional cars on the road, the State Department’s analysis found.

“This veto is conclusive proof that activism works," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. "After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil. As the President himself has argued, Keystone XL would worsen climate change, threaten the safety of farmers and landowners in America’s heartland, and create essentially no long-term jobs—all so a Canadian oil company gets to ship dirty tar sands to the rest of the world. Now, it’s time for the President to show he’s serious about his climate legacy by moving on to step two: rejecting this pipeline once and for all.”

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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