Billionaire activist to target Obama supporters in anti-Keystone effort

Billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer intends to target voters who supported President Obama’s reelection bid in a new campaign to sharpen opposition to the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Steyer said the arguments for building the Canada-to-Texas pipeline have “collapsed.” He said his NextGen Action political action committee would announce its new campaign June 20.

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“Given that none of the chief arguments being put forth by supporters of the pipeline remain standing, NextGenAction is going to be working with our friends and allies who are opposed to the development of Keystone XL to intensify our efforts in communicating what is the right policy choice to your Administration,” Steyer said in an open letter to Obama that was obtained Monday by The Washington Post.

A number of left-leaning and green organizations that oppose Keystone have recently criticized Organizing for Action, a political group with roots in Obama's reelection campaign, for not taking a position on the pipeline.

The controversial pipeline is currently under federal review. TransCanada Corp., Keystone’s builder, still requires a cross-border permit from the State Department to complete the project’s northern leg.

Steyer said a Friday announcement by British Columbia’s provincial government negated a key argument used by Keystone supporters.

British Columbia said Friday that it officially opposes Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would haul oil sands across Canada for export to Asia.

“[T]he argument that the tar sands oil was going to be delivered across Canada if the U.S. pipeline was not permitted has been demolished,” he wrote.

Keystone’s supporters have rejected claims that the pipeline would ramp up greenhouse gas emissions or accelerate oil sands production.

They contend demand will force oil sands development, with rail or other pipelines in Canada bringing them to market if Keystone doesn’t. A State Department draft environmental review released in March affirmed that view.

Therefore, the pipeline’s backers have said, the United States should approve the project in order to take advantage of the short-term jobs and energy security it promises.

But Steyer said British Columbia's statement undercuts the State Department’s findings that oil sands production would occur regardless of the decision on Keystone.

“This decision shows that our Environmental Protection Agency was right all along: Transporting tar sands from Canada through the Keystone Pipeline will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions,” Steyer wrote, referencing the Environmental Protection Agency’s questioning of Foggy Bottom’s environmental review.

Steyer, a Democratic donor who also has given money to Obama’s campaigns, has ramped up his Washington, D.C., profile in recent months — especially on Keystone.

Steyer has often pressed the Obama administration to nix the pipeline. He also targeted Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) for his support of Keystone during the Democratic primary for the special Senate election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry. Lynch lost to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

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