Protesters and politicians alike have ramped up the pressure on President Obama this week to halt the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Anti-pipeline activists met Obama during several recent campaign stops. Protesters even interrupted Obama’s speech at the University of Colorado in Denver on Wednesday, prompting him to say, “All right, thank you, guys. We’re looking at it right now, all right? No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it.”
The proposed TransCanada pipeline, which would stretch 1,700 miles from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast refineries and cost $7 billion, has drawn criticisms from environmentalists who argue that the project has a significant risk of accidents and that the tar sands oil has a larger carbon output than conventional oil. The State Department is responsible for approving the project and has largely favored the pipeline. Many attribute their approval to the department’s close ties to pro-Keystone XL lobbyists.
But it’s not just environmental activists who are concerned with the pipeline: On Wednesday, a group of three U.S. senators and 11 members of Congress sent a letter to the president, notifying him that they had made a request to the State Department’s deputy inspector general for an investigation of the department’s handling of the project assessment.
“Many serious concerns have been raised regarding conflicts of interest in the State Department’s process for conducting its federally-mandated review of this project. Fundamentally, on a decision of such consequence, with a project that could have a fifty-year lifespan and that presents tremendous environmental and safety risks, we believe it is critical that the American people have confidence that all the facts have been presented in an objective and unbiased manner, and that the State Department and all private parties have fully complied with the letter and spirit of all federal laws and regulations.”
This echoes concerns from other politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Meanwhile, environmental groups and the energy industry have released competing advertisements in an attempt to sway the public and the president.
Obama has the power to intervene and stop the project, but it is unclear at this point whether the persistent pleas of activists and politicians will be enough to persuade him.