Environmentalists declared victory Friday over not only the Keystone XL pipeline, but over fossil fuels across the board.
In a celebratory news conference with reporters, leaders of top environmental groups in the United States and Canada said President Obama’s rejection of Keystone marks a major turning point away from fossil fuels.
And green groups were happy to take a large part of the credit for it.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski screamed a sustained “yay” in excitement, declaring that the years of work, protests, lobbying and other advocacy had paid off.
“This is huge,” Karpinski said. “I’ve been working in this town on environmental issues for nearly 40 years, and I can’t imagine a bigger victory, because it was against such great odds.”
Bill McKibben, founder of activist group 350.org, said the Keystone fight was the largest environmental mandate in years and did more than anything in history to build up the green movement.
“People have learned how to fight, we’ve all learned how to fight, and there’s a sprawling fossil fuel resistance,” McKibben said. “It is a remarkable movement, and this day marks one of its great achievements.”
McKibben declared Obama’s rejection a “watershed moment” in environmental history and said the president is “the first world leader to kill a major fossil fuel project because of its effect on the climate.”
Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-R.I.), a leading environmentalist and Keystone foe, came to congratulate the green leaders.
“When the environmental side engaged with the fossil fuel community, we took them on and despite the underdog position we started with, we won,” he said. “And that we can take on to the next victory and the next one and the next one.”
Obama announced his rejection of the pipeline Friday morning after a more than seven-year review process led by the State Department.
Republicans and business leaders excoriated Obama, saying the decision will hurt economic development and national security.
Throughout the review process time, greens enlisted millions of activists to protest, call, email, mail or otherwise pressure the Obama administration.
“It’s truly a day to celebrate,” said Rhea Suh, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“We are witnessing the dawn, truly, of a new, bolder and necessary set of actions to confront the greatest challenge of our generation,” she said. “And clearly, this victory would not have been achieved without the sustained pressure of millions of Americans, organizations from every corner of the country, and of the landowners, ranchers and people of Nebraska who have fought for this day.”
Sierra Club Director Michael Brune said the victory will have a lasting impact.
“Today marks the beginning of the end of both dirty tar sands as well as dirty fossil fuel projects across the continent and around the world,” he said.