Dems to Obama: Reject Keystone before Paris

Dems to Obama: Reject Keystone before Paris

Democrats and environmental groups are ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline ahead of major international climate talks in Paris next month.

After a week of action on Keystone, Democrats say that denying the project before the conference would send a powerful — if symbolic — message about the United States’ resolve to combat climate change. It would be an especially potent gesture, they say, given that Obama and other officials are calling for the conference to yield a worldwide climate change action plan.
 
“It’s about a tone and it’s about an attitude,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair.
 
“For the decision to be pending doesn’t hurt. But making a decision — rejecting it — I think, sets a tone and an attitude about the seriousness of this nation and, more important, the commitment that the president is making here.”
 

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The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which convenes in Paris on Nov. 30, is focused on hatching a global deal to reduce worldwide carbon emissions. Obama has pledged to consider Keystone’s impact on climate change before deciding on the pipeline.  

Keystone developer TransCanada appealed this week for an extension of the federal review of the project, a move that would have effectively allowed it to wait for the potential election of a Republican president next November.
 
The State Department denied the extension request on Wednesday, and the White House has so far signaled it will follow through on its plan to issue a ruling on Keystone before the end of Obama’s term.
 
If Obama denies the request — as Keystone watchers on both sides of the debate expect him to — a Republican president could undo that action upon taking office. But even so, a rejection just before world leaders huddle on climate change would show the United States’ commitment to the cause, environmentalists say.
 
“President Obama should say, 'This fails my climate test,'” said Bill McKibben, the co-founder of the climate change group 350.org.
 
“If he did that, he’d be among the first world leaders to say: ‘Here’s a big project we’re not going to build because of its effect on climate,’ and going into Paris, that would provide some useful credibility, sure.”
 
The leading Democratic presidential candidates have all said they would deny the Keystone project, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters Why Democrats must confront extreme left wing incitement to violence MORE (I-Vt.) said this week that Obama should “absolutely” follow suit before the Paris talks.
 
“We need aggressive action in every way,” Sanders said Wednesday.
 
“I would hope very much that President Obama will stand up as soon as possible and say that the Keystone pipeline is a no-brainer, that you do not extract and transport some of the dirtiest fuel on Earth, end of discussion.”
 
Other Democrats said a Keystone denial would give a boost to the already-stout carbon plans Obama is taking to Paris. The United States is pledging to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2025.
 
“When it comes to climate, energy policy, they have been remarkably consistent and aggressive and confident and I think that’s put us in a better position to cobble together the kind of international agreement that’s going to be necessary to solve this problem,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said.
 
“[Keystone] can either add to that argument or be a blemish,” he added. “It’s not a trivial matter, but I will say the symbolism, at this point, would be pretty significant.”
 
Sierra Club President Aaron Mair said a Keystone rejection — before or after Paris — would be more than just a gesture.
 
“I think he can take real action,” Mair said.
 
“He’s not running for president again, and like FDR, like any of the great presidents, he can absolutely speak for humanity and speak for America by saying, very simple: ‘This is no longer the way for America to go.’ He can absolutely say Keystone is done, not let it sit for another president to decide.”
 
The administration’s delay in ruling on Keystone and the State Department's refusal to pause its review have exasperated Republicans, who have long sought the project’s approval.
 
But the State Department’s decision this week emboldened opposing Democrats, who saw it as an indication of the administration’s thinking on the pipeline.
 
The White House has said Obama will wait to decide on Keystone until after the years-old State review of the project is complete. On Wednesday, press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed concerns about the decision affecting American credibility at Paris.
 
“No, I don't think so,” he said, noting previous climate efforts like a carbon emissions deal with China.
 
“The administration has taken some very important steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing carbon pollution.”
 
Some steadfast Keystone opponents echoed those sentiments, contending Obama’s regulatory push to cut emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors can stand on their own at the U.N., whether or not he rejects the pipeline before Paris.
 
“He’s got everything he needs, with the power plant rule, our fuel economy standards,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMassachusetts town clerk resigns after delays to primary vote count Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Senate Democrats urge Amazon to recall, stop sales of explosive products MORE (D-Mass.) said.
 
“You just put the power plant rule on the books, along with our already-existing fuel economy standards, he can make the promise of a 28 percent reduction by 2030.”