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Sierra Club chief 'confident' that Kerry, Obama will scuttle pipeline

February 6, 2013
The Hill
Ben Geman


Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune predicted victory Tuesday in activists’ battle against the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, calling President Obama’s vow to focus on climate change in his second inaugural speech a good omen.

“We are confident that [new Secretary of State John] Kerry will advise the president and the president will decide to reject this pipeline because it is such a clear first test of the president’s commitment to actually fighting climate change and ... moving beyond these extreme sources of energy,” Brune said on WAMU’s “The Diane Rehm Show.”

In addition to Obama’s speech, the arrival of Kerry – a longtime advocate of emissions curbs – at the State Department has bolstered environmentalists’ hopes that Keystone will not receive a federal permit.

The State Department is heading the federal review. Kerry, in his Jan. 24 confirmation hearing before a Senate committee, kept his cards close to the vest on Keystone.

Stopping TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring oil from Canada’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries has become a top priority for environmental groups. 

Several groups are organizing a major climate change rally in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17 that will include a heavy focus on blocking Keystone.

Business groups and a number of unions are fighting hard for Keystone, citing thousands of jobs and arguing it will boost energy security by strengthening energy ties with Canada, which is already the largest supplier of oil to the U.S.

Another guest on the WAMU program, Matthew Koch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, declined to predict the outcome of the federal decision, saying instead that he is "hopeful."

“I am hopeful they will approve the pipeline. I think there are a lot of jobs at stake,” said Koch, the vice president for oil sands and Arctic issues with the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Environmentalists oppose the project due to greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy-intensive development of Canadian oil sands, and say the pipeline would help lock-in long-term expansion of production.

Koch said oil sands producers are making strides in becoming less energy- and water intensive. “The footprint is getting better,” he said.



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