Green groups warn Obama against any ‘deal-making’ on Keystone pipeline

Environmentalists are putting pressure on the White House not to cut a deal that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline if Canada gets tougher on carbon emissions.

Their new letter to President Obama arrives as Canadian leaders are preparing oil and gas sector climate rules and pledging stepped-up collaboration with the U.S. on cutting emissions from petroleum development.

The letter from 25 environmental and liberal groups — such as the League of Conservation Voters, and — says they “oppose any deal-making” and argues that Keystone can’t coexist with efforts to battle global warming.

Here’s a bit of the letter:

We are pleased to hear reports that Canadian officials may be considering new policies to mitigate global warming pollution from the oil and gas sectors. Increased regulation of these sectors is long overdue in both Canada and the U.S. in order to protect our communities and climate.
However, on behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, we oppose any deal-making in return for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Our rationale is simple. Building Keystone XL will expand production in the tar sands, and that reality is not compatible with serious efforts to battle climate change.

The 25 groups also include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Alaska Wilderness League, Public Citizen and others.

The Sierra Club is sending a separate letter Tuesday that makes similar points, warning against a “backdoor bilateral agreement” on the pipeline.

“The Canadian government’s promises to offset tar sands carbon pollution are nothing more than a rubber check written against an empty account. That check would bounce, just like all of the Harper government’s other climate promises. The one thing climate scientists and energy experts say we can be sure of, is that the Keystone XL pipeline would deliver a massive new source of carbon pollution,” states the letter from Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

The Washington Post reported on the letters earlier Tuesday.

The letters signal that Obama’s stepped-up efforts to curb carbon pollution from power plants won’t sap the green movement’s opposition to Keystone on climate change grounds.

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski told the Post that “The intensity out there has not diminished one bit. If anything, the willingness of people to go to jail over this is expanding.”

Keystone XL remains under Obama administration review. Environmentalists say the pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries would enable a major expansion of carbon-heavy oil sands production.

A draft State Department study in March, however, concluded that approving or rejecting Keystone would have little effect on the rate of oil sand production growth, a finding that Keystone critics are challenging.

Obama said in late June that he would only approve Keystone if it would not “significantly” worsen carbon pollution on a “net” basis. The comment has raised speculation that new Canadian programs to curb oil sands emissions could help the project meet Obama’s test.

Obama, in a July New York Times interview, said “there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.”