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UPDATE: February 17 rally planned in DC as Obama’s decision on KXL approaches

A reporter interviews Barlow about the KXL pipeline near the White House, November 2011.

A reporter interviews Barlow about the KXL pipeline near the White House, November 2011.

It is expected that President Barack Obama will announce his decision about the Keystone XL pipeline as early as this March or April.

The National Post reports, “Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is leading a campaign to score swift approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, along with ten other American state governors, (by sending a letter to the President on the eve of his inauguration). The governors of Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Utah and North and South Dakota signed the letter. It has been noted that it wasn’t signed by the Governor of Nebraska, where the KXL was originally proposed to cross 100 kilometres of the Sandhills, the recharge point for the Ogallala aquifer. The Globe and Mail adds that, “Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer has led a long and sustained lobbying effort promoting Keystone XL and will keep pressing.”

Last week, Dave Coles, the President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, spoke in New York City. In his speech, Coles stated, “The bevy of export pipelines being proposed need to be put on hold until we develop a national consensus around a sustainable energy strategy. We oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and call on President Obama to reject the project. Climate pollution from the bitumen sands industry is already considerable and will only get worse by approving Keystone XL. The Canadian government’s aggressive lobbying in the U.S. in favor of the pipeline is an embarrassment.”

There have been contrary signals as to what Obama’s decision may be. In early-January, Lisa Jackson, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, abruptly resigned. The Canadian Press reported Jackson quit “reportedly to protest the Obama administration’s apparent plans to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline…” But that article also notes, “The real threat to Keystone could be John Kerry, expected to soon be easily confirmed America’s new secretary of state… Kerry is one of the most vocal climate change hawks in Congress, and has long stressed the need for the U.S. to combat its addiction to fossil fuels. …In October 2011, Kerry, the head of the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee, vowed that no stone would remain unturned as senators examined the environmental impact of Keystone XL. ‘There’s a lot at stake here and I’ll do my best to leave no question unanswered including every possible economic and environmental consideration before a final decision is made,’ he said in a statement.”

Given the expected timing of Obama’s decision, 350.org will be organizing a ‘Forward On Climate’ rally on Sunday February 17 in Washington, D.C., in which thousands are expected to converge to call on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The website for this action highlights, “Just over a year ago, 15,000 people surrounded the White House — and President Obama listened, delaying the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This is our best chance to show the President how strong this movement has become since then.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke at that rally in which 15,000 people surrounded the White House in November 2011. In her speech, she stated, “I want to say to you here today that the Canadian government does not speak for Canadians. Prime Minister Harper has said the decision President Obama has to make is a ‘no brainer’ and the Canadian Ambassador to the US, Gary Doer, has become the chief salesman for the energy industry. But polls tell us Canadians want to move away from a fossil fuel future and stand with the millions of Americans for a just transition to a sustainable energy future.”

To sign-up for the February 17 ‘Forward On Climate’, go to http://act.350.org/signup/presidentsday. The speech by Dave Coles can be read at http://rabble.ca/news/2013/01/keystone-xl-pipeline-bad-environment-and-canadian-workers. To watch the 350.org video of Barlow’s speech outside the White House, go to http://vimeo.com/31873625.