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For Immediate Release, November 10, 2011

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Obama Administration Delays Decision on Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

Dirty Tar Sands Pipeline Should Be Rejected Outright

WASHINGTON— The State Department is expected to announce today that a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will be delayed to allow consideration of an alternative route that would avoid Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills and the critically important Ogallala Aquifer. The development follows an action Sunday in which at least 12,000 people surrounded the White House urging President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline, as well as a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and partners challenging illegal construction along the pipeline route in the Sandhills. It also follows moves by the Nebraska legislature to block eminent domain for the pipeline.

“The truth is, the Keystone XL pipeline shouldn’t be built in the Sandhills or anywhere else,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Tar sands oil is the dirtiest oil on the planet -- it pollutes our air, water and land. Global warming demands we move to a clean-energy future now, not after it’s too late. But rather than make the tough choice to reject this pipeline, President Obama has punted.”   

Although the pipeline should clearly not be built in the Sandhills, moving it would not solve the problem of further tar sands development. Strip mining of oil from Alberta’s tar sands has destroyed tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluted hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space. Extraction and refining of tar sands oil also produces two to three times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil — representing a massive new source of fossil fuels that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid climate catastrophe.

If this were not enough, the caustic oil known as bitumen, which will be transported 1,700 miles across six states and thousands of water bodies by XL, poses an unacceptable spill risk. An existing pipeline, Keystone 1, has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar sands crude. Another tar sands pipeline spilled 800,000 gallons in the Kalamazoo River.

Keystone XL would directly threaten scores of imperiled plants and animals in its path, including the whooping crane, piping plover, woodland caribou, interior least tern, black-footed ferret, pallid sturgeon, Arkansas River shiner, American burying beetle and western prairie fringed orchid.

“From the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, the Keystone XL pipeline is an environmental disaster in the making,” said Greenwald. “Americans overwhelmingly value clean air and water and want our leaders to protect the future for our children. This isn’t a game of hot potato: The Keystone XL shouldn’t be approved under any circumstances.”   

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