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President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

Energy

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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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

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The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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