Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups are not happy with President Barack Obama's new focus on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
"President Obama is betraying his promise of clean energy leadership. We've seen an 'all of the above' energy strategy — and voters rejected it in 2008. By refusing to make choices to prioritize clean energy over the outdated, dirty energy of the past, President Obama is abdicating his moral responsibility to lead. He's giving in to political headwinds engineered by the big bucks of dirty energy industries," announced Friends of the Earth's president, Erich Pica.
The announcement came last week following a speech by the President, in Oklahoma, in which he said he has directed federal governmental agencies to speed up reviews of pipeline projects as they relate to the southern section of the Keystone XL. Obama has blocked the more vital federal permitting of the pipeline, which would allow it to cross the Canadian – US border. Despite a successful, three-year, full environmental assessment, and approvals by state and federal agencies, Obama said the pipeline needs more study and review.
The Keystone XL, being proposed by the Canadian company, TransCanada, is viewed as vitally important to the development of the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana because it would provide an on-ramp at Baker, Montana. Without additional pipeline capacity the development of the Bakken oil will be severely restricted within a couple of years.
Another environmental group spokesman, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) President and CEO Larry Schweiger was also critical, saying, "President Obama has taken a dangerous wrong turn on energy. Oil companies are drilling like never before, and spilling like never before, yet we are paying at the pump like never before. He pointed out that the President's words are coming "on the heels of devastating oil spills," in which he included the Yellowstone River spill, last summer.
"Rushing pipelines and drill rigs for rich oil executives will only delay the investments we need in renewable energy and create long-lasting damage to our waters and lands," said Schweiger, underscoring the political position that favors the development of alternative energies which are considered more "green," than the nation's use of carbon fuels like oil and gas. President Obama has repeatedly said he favors the development of alternative energies. He has chastised those who believe that the US should increase drilling for oil, saying that more drilling will not solve the energy needs of the US.
The issue has increasingly become a political "hot potato" as gas prices rise at the pump. The situation is one in which the President is attempting to play to both sides of the issue, say more conservative critics, pointing out that for the President to encourage the permitting process in Oklahoma is nonsensical. Oklahoma and other states do not need the President's permission to go forward, as does the northern end of the pipeline which requires his approval since it crosses an international border.
"He's taking credit for going forward on the only portion of the pipeline that he doesn't need to approve," said Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota in media quotes. "This is literally straddling both sides of the issue."
In other media, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was said to "balk" at the idea that President Obama could claim credit for speeding up the approval process of the southern segment of the pipeline. "This is like a governor personally issuing a fishing license," Brendan Buck said. "There is only a minor, routine permit needed for this leg of the project. Only a desperate administration would inject the President of the United States into this trivial matter. The President's attempt to take credit for a pipeline he blocked and personally lobbied Congress against is staggering in its disingenuousness. This portion of the pipeline is being built in spite of the President, not because of him."
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