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Tag: keystone pipeline

Goodbye To The (Unneeded) Keystone XL Pipeline

Little passion greeted President Joe Biden's decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. Remarkably little.

Sure, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the move an "insult." His Canadian province had sunk $1.1 billion into the project, designed to transport dirty oil from Alberta's tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

But the Keystone XL pipeline was an artifact from an earlier time. When it was proposed in 2008, the price of crude had jumped to over $120 a barrel, causing some to fret that the energy supply would fall short of demand.

Oil is now down to about $50 a barrel, thanks in large part to the shale-oil boom. Thus, American oil producers won't be losing much sleep over the loss of a venture that would have added to supply, possibly depressing their prices even more. By the way, energy economists say that producing petroleum from Canadian tar sands could not turn a profit until the global oil price passes $65 a barrel.

The earliest objections to the pipeline were mostly environmental. Ranchers, farmers, and Native Americans in Nebraska worried that pipeline leaks would foul groundwater, an especially precious commodity in their part of the world. Its demise also ended ugly eminent domain fights, as the Canadian pipeline builder, TC Energy, tried to force landowners to give it right of way across their farms.

"Thank you President Biden and all the thousands of voices who have stood strong these many years," Jeanne Crumly told the Omaha World-Herald. Her ranch was right in the pipeline's path.

Not only is tar sands oil a dirty fossil fuel; it is the dirtiest . A spill rapidly sinks to the bottom of waterways, making any cleanup harder than it would be with conventional crude.

Of course, 2008 was before climate change jumped to the top of our list of existential crises. Extracting and processing tar sands oil creates up to four times the carbon pollution emitted in other crude production.

But what about the arguments in the pipeline's favor? They are yesterday's talking points, though some politicians are still making them.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a short statement criticizing the cancellation as follows: "Failure to construct the pipeline would mean more dependence on overseas energy sources as well as fewer jobs."

On energy independence, one of Ricketts' key points, the United States already has it. The U.S. has actually been a net exporter of refined petroleum products for 10 years. Starting two years ago, more crude oil was leaving for other countries than was coming in.

And employment? TC Energy said the pipeline would create 119,000 jobs. A State Department report came up with a somewhat smaller number. It said the project would require fewer than 2,000 construction jobs over two years. And once built, the pipeline would employ about 35.

Then-President Barack Obama nixed the project in 2015. Right after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump revived it. Biden killed it moments after being sworn in.

In a short address, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shed half a tear over the pipeline's undoing and noted the many Canadian jobs tied to fossil fuel production. He then said he looks forward to working with Biden.

Our acceleration into a post-carbon world will not be stopped. In 2020 — even as the pandemic pushed down global car sales by a fifth — sales of electric cars rose 43 percent. Consider the optics of an electric Ford Mustang about to roll off the assembly line.

The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline had its day. Fortunately, it never advanced much beyond debate. It is dead — this time, we expect, for good.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at

Trump Drops Keystone Pipeline’s U.S. Steel Requirement

IMAGE: Cranes are seen above piles of steel pipes to be exported at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily/File Photo

While We Are Distracted By Tweets, Trump Is Building A Corporate State

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The destructive toll of Donald Trump’s presidency is beginning to emerge, foreshadowing what’s likely to come as the White House and congressional Republicans begin to reverse, repeal, and replace federal laws and regulations and downsize agencies.

While Trump’s red-state supporters may be cheering now, they’ll soon feel the consequences. Take the Muslim travel ban, if upheld. Thousands of the doctors across rural America are from the countries targeted by Trump, a new analysis by FiveThirtyEight reported. “It’s no secret that the U.S. faces a physician shortage in many parts of the country, especially when it comes to doctors in relatively low-paying specialties like primary care and psychiatry.”

Add to that whatever is done to undermine Obamacare and Medicaid, and one set of dominos is lining up and poised to fall. A possible doctor shortage in the regions that elected Trump is only the start. Since taking office, a mixture of Trump’s executive orders, new proposed legislation in Congress, and directives by just-installed agency heads—the first in a coming wave of appointees—is taking aim to destroy a swath of policies adopted to enhance public health, protect the environment, and help ordinary Americans by curbing corporate greed.

This destructive template doesn’t stop in Washington, either. If anything, it gives license to GOP-held state legislatures to step on and pre-empt progressive laws—such as minimum wage, LGBTQ rights, paid sick days, gun control, natural gas drilling, and immigration sanctuaries—passed in cities where Democrats rule and reside.

“If people had a sense of the number of threats to local decision making there are, either under consideration or that have already been passed by legislatures, their heads would spin,” Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, told PewTrust’s Stateline, in a new piece forecasting more conflict.

It Starts at the Top

Trump’s executive orders may be vague, overreaching, and even unconstitutional in some cases, promising more than the intricate legal gears of government can deliver. But they set an unmistakable tone and direction. To review, his first was to overturn Obamacare, followed by freezing new federal regulations and hiring of non-military employees; barring funds for international family planning; reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; speeding up issuing of permits to thwart environmental impact review; building a Mexican border wall; expanding the federal deportation machine; deregulating Wall St. finance rules, and more.

Critics have been quick to pounce on the inconsistent and hypocritical statements made by Trump and his team. Last Friday, for example, when surrounded by top Wall Street bankers as he signed an order intended to gut the Dodd-Frank financial reform, Trump said, “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money.”

Two days later on Fox News Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence fed the network most watched by Trump’s base a different line. “The message that we are sending to Main Street is that we are going to pull back this mountain of red tape that is stifling access to capital and loans.”

Trump’s critics may sneer at Trump for bowing to Wall Street while Pence panders to Main Street, and pledge to carry on resisting. But such personal reactions ignore a growing privatization juggernaut. Beyond the nonstop coverage of the president’s latest dumb tweets, a deeper and darker narrative is unfolding at a policy level. In almost all areas of public responsibility, the fulcrum upon which government moves is swiftly being redirected. And it is almost impossible to keep up with small changes that will have big impacts.

For example, look at what the Federal Communications Commission just did after Trump elevated Ajit Pai, an ex-lawyer for Verizon who was in the panel’s minority of Republicans under Obama, as its new chairman. Under Pai, the FEC released a dozen directives further privatizing the internet in ways that prey on consumers.

“He stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals. He withdrew an effort to keep prison phone rates down, and he scrapped an effort to break open the cable box market,” the New York Times reported. A Wall Street industry analyst said, “The speed of the ruling and the chairman’s tone are very encouraging to internet service providers. I think it’s a down payment on [cutting] net neutrality, with much more to follow.”

Pai didn’t need Senate confirmation, which is the case for the thousands of federal appointees each president makes. As Matt Wood, policy director for Free Press said, “The public wants an FCC that helps people. Instead, it got one that does favors for powerful corporations that its chairman used to work for.”

Congress Joins In

This same pattern is recurring across federal government. But it’s not just with presidential appointments and executive orders. The most solid legal footing for any policy is to be a law passed by Congress and signed by the president, with fine-print regulations adopted under an ensuing rulemaking process.

Most of the press attention is now focused on Trump’s nominees to lead federal agencies and their beliefs. All of Trump’s finalists to lead the Food and Drug Administration want to reverse decades of precedent for approving new drugs. One contender, Jim O’Neill, a former Health and Human Services Department officials who is an associate of Peter Thiel, Trump’s friend and a Silicon Valley billionaire, wants people to use new drugs “at their own risk.” While that kind of deregulation steps on scientific protocol, to say nothing of possibly leading to medical marketing that’s even more hyped than it is now, his views are part of a pro-privatization continuum that is sweeping Congress.

A parallel legislative effort now under way would “redefine science to make issuing health regulations almost impossible,” Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco professor who has long studied and criticized the way tobacco companies have flouted public health laws, wrote to his list-serv on Monday. Glantz is referring to a bill slated for a hearing Tuesday in the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that would limit the research that can be used by the Environmental Protection Agency for drafting industry-curbing regulations.

As Sharon Lerner reported for, this science-curtailing approach was “based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago” by limiting EPA to using data “that can be replicated or made available for independent analysis.” The problem with that standard, she wrote, is “health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share,” thus thwarting precise replication and laws protecting the public. Another part of the bill would allow “industry to keep much of its own inner workings and skewed research secret from the public, while delegitimizing studies done by researchers with no vested interest in their outcome.”

This trend of protecting industry profits while disregarding public impacts isn’t just found in that one bill. Late last week, the House and Senate both voted to “overturn a [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission] rule designed to stop oil companies striking corrupt deals with foreign governments” by requiring U.S. firms to disclose their billions in payments to foreign governments “in return for rights to natural resources,” said, an anti-corruption group.

“Global Witness notes with concern the complete fabrication of the facts by the Republican leadership in their presentation about the [to-be-discarded] Cardin-Lugar transparency provision,” the group said. “They have relied on the American Petroleum Institute’s ‘facts,’ which have been discredited over the past six years in multiple fora, while being totally unwilling to hear an alternative view.”

License to Pre-Empt

The emerging federal takeover by corporate privateers has a statewide corollary: Republican-controlled legislatures and governors pre-empting progressive local laws adopted in the Democratic strongholds and cities in their states. If anything, the developments in Washington will only empower the stateside Republicans.

Democrats in deep blue coastal states like California see themselves as a new line of defense against Trump’s excesses. Their ability to draw lines and say no will be tested in federal courts soon enough. The executive orders to take away federal funds from sanctuary cities that do not help immigration authorities to deport visa-less immigrants will be a key early test case.

But across much of the nation, a different political dynamic threatens Democrats. Most Democrats live in cities under Democratic mayors, even in red states. Many cities have adopted progressive local laws that Republicans in their capitals want to overrule by pre-empting them with new laws affecting the entire state. In 2017, the GOP controlled the entire Legislature and governor’s office in 24 states. In contrast, Democrats controlled 78 percent of the nation’s 40 largest cities.

Republicans, increasingly, have sought to block actions by cities on a range of economic, environmental, human rights, and workplace issues, Pew’s Stateline just wrote. “The stage looks set for more confrontation between cities and states this year,” they predicted. “Already state lawmakers in Texas and Arkansas are weighing bills that would ban cities from declaring themselves ‘sanctuaries…’ Lawmakers in Kentucky, Virginia and six other states are considering preventing localities from allowing transgender people to use some restrooms.”

The progressive policies targeted by red states for pre-emption include: new gun controls, anti-fracking ordinances; creation of local utility districts, plastic bag fees, and much more. “About 32 states now prohibit localities from regulating ride-hailing companies such as Uber, 23 [states] ban the local minimum wage, 15 [states] ban cities from requiring companies to offer sick days, and three ban [LGBTQ] anti-discrimination ordinance,” Stateline reported.

Surveying the entire spectrum of Trump’s executive orders, his federal agency appointees, the flurry of congressional pro-privatization legislation, and state-side attacks on Democrat-run cities, reveals the true extent of the coming assault on basic government and progressive values that puts people before profits. With Congress and federal agencies swiftly being occupied by corporate privateers, progressives are going to be looking to local lines of defense for the kinds of public services and safety nets they want. But those too are under attack.

“This is really about cities asserting the rights of cities to decide for themselves, consistent with their own community’s values, what solutions are in the best interest of their community,” Tallahassee’s Gillum told Stateline.

In Trump’s America, with the help of a heavy-handed Republican Congress and Republican legislators ready to pre-empt progressive policies, Gillum’s premise will be put to the test. The only thing certain is that more confrontation is coming.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights.

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump is welcomed as he speaks to commanders and coalition representatives during a visit to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

9 Terrible Things Trump Has Done In His First Week As President

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

It’s been just seven days since Donald Trump took office. While the media spent most of that time spilling digital ink over inauguration numbers, the new administration was diminishing women’s health and safety around the world, chipping away at health care for millions of Americans, and pouring money that could feed and insure children into a useless garbage heap along the border. It was a bad week for politics and decency, which have always been on frigid terms, but are now dead to each other.

There were other things, too. Trump threatened Chicago with martial law on what he thought was a double-dog dare from fellow racist Bill O’Reilly. He promised to install monitors—glorified tattletales, really—to oversee federal agencies and report back to brass at the White House. After again trotting out the lie about immigrants and dead people voting, Trump promised an investigation into the widely debunked issue of election fraud (though not into Russian election meddling), which should start with his own family and staff. Speaking of Steve Bannon, the grand wizard of the so-called alt-right and White House senior adviser continued the Trump team’s cynical campaign to keep their base paranoid, uninformed, and stupid by pretending their boss is a victim of the press. Newsweek discovered Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, and Jared Kushner all have email accounts on a private system. And as the final, delusional cherry on the poisonous cake, Trump compared himself to Abraham Lincoln.

He also signed a bunch of executive orders. Far more important than all the background noise is the authoritarian craziness that Trump is codifying into law. These plans and policies will wreak irreparable havoc and damage, causing suffering and pain to millions in the U.S. and beyond. Remember—this is just seven days’ worth of destruction. We’ve got four more years of this.

Here’s 9 terrible things Trump did in just seven days.

1. Greenlit the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines.

On Tuesday, Trump signed three executive orders to benefit oil pipelines and remove Obama environmental protections. The Dakota Access memorandum notes the pipeline is “90 percent complete,” and seeks to expedite approvals for permits to “construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.” The Keystone order invites “TransCanada Keystone Pipeline to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State” for fast-tracked approval within 60 days. Trump also signed an order demanding that the Secretary of Commerce devise a plan ensuring all pipelines are constructed using U.S. iron and steel. There are outstanding questions about what the orders will actually mean, since they mandate quick turnarounds on approvals but include no actual directives about resuming construction.

It’s worth pointing out here that Trump, who has refused to divest of his many business conflicts, has been an investor in one pipeline and may still have holdings in the other. As Huffington Post writer Michael McLaughlin notes:

In May 2015, according to campaign disclosure reports, Trump owned between $500,000 and $1 million worth of shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s lead developer, but had less than $50,000 invested when he sold off the remainder of his shares this summer, according to The Washington Post. As of last May, Trump had at least $100,000 invested in Phillips 66, which owns a quarter of the oil line.

Kelcy Warren, head of DAPL builder Energy Transfer Partners, donated more than $100,000 to various Trump supporting entities over the course of the presidential campaign. Though Trump reportedly sold off his ETP holdings last year, other investors were surely heartened by the executive action. Fortune reports that one day after the memorandum was signed, shares of the company were moving precipitously upward.

2. Reinstated the anti-abortion global ‘gag rule,’ which will increase the number of unsafe abortions around the world.

The Helms Amendment has outlawed the use of U.S. foreign aid dollars to fund abortion services to women since the early 1970s. That is not enough to appease the rabid anti-reproductive justice movement in this country, which won’t be satisfied until it threatens the health of every woman around the world. Hence Trump’s signing of an order that brings back Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Mexico City Policy—last in effect during the Bush 43 era—which bans U.S. support to foreign organizations that offer abortion or abortion counseling to women. Essentially, the U.S. will now tell foreign organizations it helps support in even the smallest of ways how to spend their own money. As Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards explains:

This means that if a clinic receives even $1 of U.S. foreign assistance for family planning, its doctors and nurses are limited in what they can do to help their patients. They can’t counsel a woman on the full range of health options legally available to her, refer her to another provider for specialized care, or even give her a pamphlet with medically accurate information. That’s why we call it the global gag rule, because it prevents doctors from talking to their patients and providing services that are legal in their own countries—and in the U.S.—and it keeps people from participating in the democratic process of their own countries. This means clinics closing their doors, more unintended pregnancies, and more unsafe abortion.

It also means that potentially billions of dollars will be withheld with organizations doing lifesaving medical research and other work beyond U.S. borders. Vox notes that the Trump order expands on the amount of affected funding by 15 times:

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on health issues, the policy will now apply to aid money coming not just from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), as before, but also from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and even to Peace Corps volunteers working on family planning in the field.

3. Scrapped a money-saving fee cut for new homeowners.

The very first post-inaugural move Trump made was signing an executive order voiding President Obama’s mortgage cost reduction. The .25 percent cut to federal mortgage insurance, set to take effect today, would have saved new homeowners roughly $500 a year. The rate drop would have benefited first-time and lower-income home buyers with Federal Housing Authority-backed mortgage loans. For a self-proclaimed warrior for the middle class, it’s a seemingly contradictory first action to take, unless said warrior is also a pathological liar, in which case it makes total sense.

4. Froze federal hires.

On Monday, Trump ordered a hiring freeze on most government workers. The memorandum states that “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created,” with exceptions for military, public safety, and national security personnel. The order cuts off positions for thousands of highly skilled scientists, engineers, and nurses—who are not exempt under the “public safety” clause—many of whom are actually indispensable to the stated goals of the Trump administration. The order also places a burden on job-seeking veterans, who represent 30 percent of federal workers and are given preferential treatment in government hiring, according to Vets who were already in process toward being hired for a federal position will no longer be up for those roles. The site also notes, “the hiring freeze would apply to the VA, which had been seeking to bring on 2,000 new employees to help clear up appointment backlogs and improve care.” More than half a million veterans already endure month-long waits for attention at the agency.

“President Trump’s action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone, and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less,” David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told the Washington Post. “This hiring freeze will mean longer lines at Social Security offices, fewer workplace safety inspections, less oversight of environmental polluters, and greater risk to our nation’s food supply and clean water systems.”

5. Began plans to build the big, stupid wall and other nods to his base of anti-immigrant hysterics.

Citing “alternative facts” not worth repeating about Mexican immigration, Trump’s “Border Security” executive order states that Congress will allot federal funds—that’s “taxpayer dollars” in plainspeak—for the “immediate construction” of a southern border wall. It includes plans to increase the number of border patrol agents by 5,000 and construct more detention facilities, and outlines a broad crackdown on immigrants who cross the southern border.

Paul Ryan, who is apparently confused about what the term “fiscal conservative” means, says Congress will pony up the $10-$15 billion it does not have for children and veterans’ health care or welfare to build Trump’s completely useless monstrosity. The entire Republican Party is still peddling the lie that Mexico will pay as soon as it receives the invoice for the wall order, though Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto again dismissed that insane, illogical idea on Wednesday. On Thursday, Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump.

6. Targeted sanctuary cities.

In a separate order, Trump takes aim at sanctuary cities, banning federal funds to jurisdictions that “willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” As activist and policy analyst Samuel Sinyangwe notes on Twitter, the State Homeland Security Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, and Department of Homeland Security collectively provide $275 million to New York City each year in federal anti-terrorism funds that would be cut under Trump’s new action.

For an added touch of useless pettiness, Trump’s order includes an attempt at public shaming in Section 8b, which states the administration will “make public a comprehensive [weekly] list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” The next time you wonder how government is wasting time and money, remember that your tax dollars (but not Trump’s, because he reportedly doesn’t pay taxes) are funding junk like this.

7. Started dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

In an order purporting to “minimize the economic burden” of the ACA, Trump instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and heads of other departments to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from [and] delay” requirements of the Obamacare law. Because of the lack of preciseness in the order, experts were unable to pin down precisely how and when changes would start to take effect. There’s also the fact that Republicans, despite dozens of attempts to repeal the plan and years of time to brainstorm, have offered neither a replacement plan nor concrete strategy for its implementation.

“The order could affect virtually anything in the law, provided it is couched as a delay in implementing the law,” Stuart Butler, of the Brookings Institution, told Reuters.

Robert Laszewski, head of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, has spoken and written about the problems with Obamacare over the years. Despite recognizing the plan’s imperfections, Laszewski believes Trump and the GOP’s actions on health care will harm millions of ACA subscribers.

“Instead of sending a signal that there’s going to be an orderly transition, they’ve sent a signal that it’s going to be a disorderly transition,” Laszewski told the Washington Post. “How does the Trump administration think this is not going to make the situation worse?”

8. Demanded half-assed environmental reviews so development can proceed, consequences be damned.

“Too often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures,” the executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals reads. “These delays have increased project costs and blocked the American people from the full benefits of increased infrastructure investments, which are important to allowing Americans to compete and win on the world economic stage.”

To keep pesky things like clean air and water quality concerns from getting in the way of quick and dirty major infrastructure developments, Trump’s executive order will “streamline and expedite…environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects.”

The order directs the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to make a decision within 30 days on “high priority” projects such as “port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges, and highways.” All things that are utterly useless if we all sicken and die from drinking polluted water or breathing toxic air.

Once again, predicting how this will all shake out is difficult. “It remained unclear how Trump’s order would expedite those environmental reviews,” Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin write at the Washington Post. “Many are statutory and the legislation that created them cannot be swept aside by an executive order.”

9. Put gag orders on multiple government agencies and removed vital internet content.

Staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Interior Department, National Institutes of Health, Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services (which includes the CDC and Food and Drug Administration), and other agencies were reportedly told not to speak to the press or provide information to the public for an indefinite period. New projects were also halted at a number of agencies.

The EPA was instructed by the Trump administration to take down its website page on climate change, according to a Reuters report. There were reports that the Trump team would be reviewing previous EPA studies and numbers, and also embargoing new studies pending review. Those steps follow the Trump transition team’s request that the Energy Department fork over the names of staff who worked on climate change issues. The team also asked the State Department for a list of positions and programs aimed at achieving gender equality.

That effectively muzzles agencies concerned with science, health, the environment, medicine and food. Essentially, everything critical to human survival.

Perhaps bowing to public outcry, USDA officials reportedly rescinded the gag order on Tuesday. There were reports of agencies going rogue, like these supposed unauthorized Twitter accounts of federal science workers, or the now offline but cached at the @WhiteHouseLeaks account. There was also the Badlands National Park Twitter, which for a few hours rebelliously tweeted climate change facts.

In the minutes after Trump’s inauguration, pages dedicated to civil rights, climate change, LGBT rights, and health care disappeared from the White House website. Spanish language pages were also removed, while a page titled “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” was newly added. “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” the page reads. “The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R) is applauded by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as he arrives to speak at a congressional Republican retreat in Philadelphia, U.S. January 26, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

50 Extreme Right-Wing Proposals From The 2016 GOP Platform

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Most voters have heard enough about Donald Trump’s plans for the presidency, but what about the rest of the Republican Party?

As polls show the race is tightening in swing states, and House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will run again for that post, it’s worth revisiting the Republican Party platform—its wish list—for what a GOP-led Congress and Donald Trump would like to impose on America. Before Trump turned the Republican nominating contest into a battle of boasts and bullying, right-wing extremists had dominated the party. Their platform, not surprisingly, goes even further to the right than what’s even been heard from Trump as he promises to build a wall along the Mexican border and embrace the religious right’s long-held tenets opposing abortion, LGBT rights and more.

The GOP 2016 platform would make Christianity the official American religion, English the official American language, replace sex education with abstinence-only advice for teenagers, privatize almost all areas of federal services, cut taxes and regulations for the rich and titans of industry, and impose a belligerent foreign policy and military build-up.

Here are 50 excerpts from the 2016 GOP platform.

1. Tax cuts for the rich: “Wherever tax rates penalize thrift or discourage investment, they must  be  lowered. Wherever current  provisions of the code are disincentives for economic growth, they  must be changed… We propose to level the international playing field by lowering the corporate  tax rate to be on a par  with, or below, the rates of other industrial nations.”

2. Deregulate the banks: “The Republican vision  for American  banking calls for establishing transparent, efficient markets where consumers can obtain loans they need at reasonable rates based on market conditions. Unfortunately, in response to the financial institutions crisis of 2008-2009, the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, otherwise known as Dodd-Frank.”

3. Stop consumer protection: “The worst of Dodd-Frank is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, deliberately designed to be a rogue agency. It answers to neither Congress nor the executive, has its own guaranteed funding outside the appropriations process… If the Bureau is not abolished, it should be subjected to congressional appropriation.”

4. Repeal environmental laws: “We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”

5. Shrink unions and union labor: “We renew our call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions… Although  unionization  has  never been permitted in any government agency concerned with national security, the current Administration has reversed that policy for the Transportation Security Administration. We will correct that mistake… We support  the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws and call for a national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce.”

6. Privatize federal railway service: “Amtrak is an extremely expensive railroad for the American taxpayers, who must subsidize every ticket. The federal government should allow private ventures to provide passenger service in the northeast corridor. The same holds  true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country. We reaffirm our intention to end federal support for  boondoggles like California’s high-speed train to nowhere.”

7. No change in federal minimum wage: “Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level.”

8. Cut government salaries and benefits: “The taxpayers spend an average of $35,000 a year per employee on non-cash benefits, triple the average non-cash compensation of the average worker in the private sector. Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector.”

9. Appoint anti-choice Supreme Court justices: “Only a Republican president will appoint judges who respect the rule of law  expressed within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, including the inalienable right to life and the laws of nature and nature’s God, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia.”

10. Appoint anti-LGBT and anti-Obamacare justices: “Only such appointments will enable courts to begin to reverse the long line  of activist decisions — including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases—that have usurped Congress’s and states’ lawmaking  authority.”

11. Legalize anti-LGBT discrimination: “We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government  discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union  of one man and one woman.”

12. Make Christianity a national religion: “We support the public  display of the Ten  Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities.”

13. Loosen campaign finance loopholes and dark money: “Freedom of speech includes the right to devote resources to whatever  cause or candidate one supports. We oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage citizens from participating in the  public square or limit their ability to promote their ideas, such as requiring private organizations to publicly disclose their donors to the government.”

14. Loosen gun controls nationwide: “We support firearm reciprocity legislation to recognize the right  of  law-abiding  Americans to carry firearms to protect themselves and their families in all  50  states. We support constitutional carry  statutes  and  salute  the  states  that  have  passed  them. We oppose ill-conceived laws that  would  restrict magazine capacity or ban  the  sale  of  the  most  popular  and  common modern rifle.”

15. Pass an anti-choice constitutional amendment: “We assert  the  sanctity  of  human  life  and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the  Constitution  and  legislation  to  make  clear  that  the  Fourteenth  Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”

16. End federal funding for Planned Parenthood: “We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned  Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.”

17. Allow states to shut down abortion clinics: “We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole  Woman’s  Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion  clinics.”

18. Oppose stem cell scientific research: “We  oppose  embryonic stem cell research. We  oppose  federal  funding  of  embryonic  stem cell research. We support adult stem cell research and urge the restoration of the national  placental stem cell bank created by President George H.W. Bush but abolished by  his Democrat  successor, President Bill Clinton. We oppose  federal  funding  for  harvesting embryos and call for a ban on human cloning.”

19. Oppose executive branch policy making: “We condemn the current Administration’s unconstitutional expansion  into  areas  beyond  those  specifically  enumerated,  including  bullying  of state and local governments in matters ranging from voter identification (ID) laws to immigration, from  healthcare  programs  to  land  use  decisions,  and  from  forced  education  curricula  to  school  restroom policies.”

20. Oppose efforts to end the electoral college: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact  and  any  other  scheme  to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.”

21. Require citizenship documents to register to vote: “We support  legislation  to  require  proof  of  citizenship  when  registering  to vote and  secure  photo  ID when  voting. We strongly oppose litigation against states exercising their sovereign authority to enact such laws.”

22. Ignore undocumented immigrants when drawing congressional districts: “In order to  preserve  the principle of one person, one vote, we urge our elected representatives to ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the  apportionment of representatives  among the states.”

23. No labeling of GMO ingredients in food products: “The  intrusive  and  expensive  federal mandates on food options and menu labeling should be ended as  soon as  possible by a  Republican  Congress. We  oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, which has proven to be safe, healthy, and a literal life-saver for millions in the developing world.”

24. Add work requirements to welfare and cut food stamps: “Nearly all the work requirements for able-bodied adults, instituted by our  landmark  welfare  reform  of  1996,  have  been  removed. We  will  restore  those  provisions  and,  to correct a mistake made when the Food Stamp program  was  first  created  in  1964, separate the  administration  of SNAP  [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program] from the Department of Agriculture.”

25. Open America’s shores to more oil and gas drilling: “We support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, even if these resources will not be immediately developed.”

26. Build the Keystone XL Pipeline: “The  Keystone  Pipeline  has  become a symbol of everything  wrong  with the current  Administration’s  ideological approach. After years of delay, the President killed it to satisfy environmental extremists. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security.”

27. Expand fracking and burying nuclear waste: “A  federal  judge  has  struck  down  the  BLM’s rule on hydraulic fracturing and we support upholding  this  decision.  We  respect  the  states’  proven  ability  to  regulate  the  use  of  hydraulic  fracturing,  methane  emissions,  and  horizontal  drilling,  and  we  will  end  the  Administration’s  disregard  of  the  Nuclear  Waste  Policy  Act  with  respect to the long-term storage of nuclear waste.”

28. No tax on carbon products: “We oppose any carbon tax… We urge the private sector to focus its resources on the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology still in its early stages here and overseas. ”

29. Ignore global climate change agreements: “The United  Nations’ Intergovernmental  Panel  on  Climate  Change  is  a  political  mechanism,  not  an  unbiased  scientific  institution. Its  unreliability  is  reflected  in  its  intolerance  toward  scientists  and  others  who  dissent  from  its  orthodoxy. We  will  evaluate  its  recommendations  accordingly. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which  represent  only  the  personal  commitments of  their   signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate.”

30. Privatize Medicare, the health plan for seniors: “Impose no changes  for  persons  55  or  older.  Give  others  the  option  of  traditional  Medicare  or  transition  to  a  premium-support  model  designed  to  strengthen  patient  choice,  promote  cost-saving  competition  among  providers.”

31. Turn Medicaid, the poor’s health plan, over to states: “Moving to a block grant approach would allow for state  and  local  governments  to  create  solutions  for  individuals  and  families  in  desperate  need  of  help  in  addressing  mental  illness.  We  respect  the  states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so  long  as  they  continue  to  perform  or  refer  for  elective abortions.”

32. No increasing Social Security benefits by taxing the rich: “As  Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create  wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system.”

33. Repeal Obamacare: “Any  honest  agenda  for  improving  healthcare  must  start  with  repeal  of  the  dishonestly  named  Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare.”

34. Give internet service providers monopoly control: “The President ordered  the  chair  of  the  supposedly  independent  Federal  Communications  Commission  to  impose  upon the internet rules devised in the 1930s for the telephone monopoly… The  internet’s  free  market needs to be free and open to all ideas and competition  without  the  government  or  service  providers picking winners and losers.”

35. Make English the official U.S. language: “We both encourage the preservation of heritage tongues and support English as the nation’s official language, a unifying force  essential  for  the  advancement  of  immigrant  communities and our nation as a whole.”

36. No amnesty for undocumented immigrants: “Illegal immigration endangers everyone,  exploits  the  taxpayers,  and  insults  all  who  aspire  to  enter  America  legally.  We  oppose  any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law,  have  disadvantaged  those  who  have  obeyed it.”

37. Build a border wall to keep immigrants out: “Our highest  priority, therefore,  must  be  to  secure  our  borders  and  all  ports  of  entry  and  to  enforce our immigration laws. That  is  why  we  support  building  a  wall  along  our  southern  border  and  protecting  all  ports  of  entry.  The  border  wall  must  cover  the  entirety  of  the  southern  border  and  must  be  sufficient  to  stop  both  vehicular  and  pedestrian  traffic.”

38. Require government verification of citizenship of all workers: “Use of  the  E-verify  program — an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and  identity  of  employees—must  be  made  mandatory  nationwide. We reaffirm  our  endorsement of the SAVE program —Systematic  Alien Verification for Entitlements—to ensure that public  funds  are  not  given  to  persons  not  legally  present in this country.”

39. Penalize cities that give sanctuary to migrants: “Because ‘sanctuary cities’ violate federal law and endanger their own citizens, they should not be eligible for federal funding. Using state licenses to reward people in the country illegally is an affront to the rule of law and must be halted.”

40. Puerto Rico should be a state but not Washington DC: “We  support  the  right  of  the  United  States  citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state… A [D.C.} statehood amendment was soundly rejected by the states when last proposed in 1976 and should not be revived.”

41. Support traditional marriage but no other families: “Children raised in  a  two-parent  household  tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in  crime  or become  pregnant  outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation.”

42. Privatize government services in the name of fighting poverty: “We call for removal of structural impediments which progressives throw in the path of poor people: Over-regulation  of  start-up  enterprises,  excessive  licensing  requirements,  needless  restrictions  on  formation of schools and day-care centers serving neighborhood families, and restrictions on providing public services in fields like transport and sanitation.”

43. Require bible study in public schools: “A  good understanding of the  Bible  being  indispensable  for the development  of  an  educated  citizenry, we encourage  state  legislatures to  offer  the  Bible in a  literature  curriculum as an elective in  America’s  high  schools.”

44. Replace traditional public schools with privatized options: “We  support  options  for  learning,  including  home-schooling,  career  and  technical  education,  private  or  parochial  schools,  magnet  schools,  charter  schools,  online  learning,  and  early-college  high schools.”

45. Replace sex education with abstinence-only approaches: “We renew our call for replacing ‘family  planning’  programs  for  teens  with  sexual  risk  avoidance  education  that  sets  abstinence  until  marriage  as  the  responsible  and  respected  standard  of  behavior.  That  approach— the  only  one always effective against premarital pregnancy and  sexually transmitted  disease—empowers  teens  to  achieve  optimal  health  outcomes.  We oppose  school-based  clinics  that  provide  referral  or  counseling  for  abortion  and  contraception  and  believe  that  federal  funds  should  not  be  used  in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.”

46. Privatize student loans instead of lowering interest rates: “The  federal  government  should  not  be  in  the  business  of  originating  student  loans.  In  order  to  bring  down  college  costs  and  give  students  access to a multitude of financing options, private sector participation in student financing should be restored.”

47. Restore the death penalty: “The  constitutionality  of  the  death  penalty  is  firmly  settled  by  its  explicit  mention  in  the  Fifth  Amendment. With  the  murder  rate  soaring  in our great  cities,  we  condemn  the  Supreme  Court’s  erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.”

48. Dramatically increase Pentagon budget: “Quite simply, the Republican Party is committed to rebuilding the U.S. military into the strongest on earth, with vast superiority over any other nation or group of nations in the world.”

49. Cancel Iran nuclear treaty and expand nuclear arsenal: “We  should  abandon  arms  control  treaties  that  benefit  our  adversaries  without  improving our national security. We must fund, develop, and deploy a multi-layered missile defense system. We must modernize nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms.”

50. Reaffirm support for Israel and slam sanctions movement: “We reaffirm America’s  commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative military edge over any and all adversaries…We reject  the false notion that Israel is an occupier and specifically recognize  that  the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel. Therefore, we call for effective legislation to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

IMAGE: U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File photo


Trump Vows To Undo Obama’s Climate Agenda In Appeal To Oil Sector

By Valerie Volcovici and Emily Stephenson

BISMARCK, N.D. – Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, promised on Thursday to roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he said would revive the ailing U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Among the proposals, Trump said he would pull the United States out of the U.N. global climate accord, approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and rescind measures by President Barack Obama to cut U.S. emissions and protect waterways from industrial pollution.

“Any regulation that’s outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely,” Trump told about 7,700 people at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, the capital of oil-rich North Dakota. “We’re going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns.”

It was Trump’s first speech detailing the energy policies he would advance if elected president. He received loud applause from the crowd of oil executives.

The comments painted a stark contrast between the New York billionaire and his Democratic rivals for the White House, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who advocate a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy technologies to combat climate change.

Trump slammed both rivals in his speech, saying their policies would kill jobs and force the United States “to be begging for oil again” from Middle East producers.

“It’s not going to happen. Not with me,” he said.

Trump’s comments drew quick criticism from environmental advocates, who called his proposals “frightening.”

“Trump’s energy policies would accelerate climate change, protect corporate polluters who profit from poisoning our air and water, and block the transition to clean energy that is necessary to strengthen our economy and protect our climate and health,” said Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist.

But industry executives cheered the stance.

“It’s simple. If Trump wins, oil field workers will be happy. If Clinton wins, oil workers will be unhappy,” said Derrick Alexander, an operations manager at oilfield services firm Integrated Productions Services.

Trump hit Clinton hard in his speech, saying the former secretary of state would be more aggressive than Obama on regulations. He repeated several times Clinton’s March comments that her policies would put coal miners out of work.

“Hillary Clinton’s agenda is job destruction,” Trump said.



Trump said slashing regulation would help the United States achieve energy independence and reduce America’s reliance on Middle Eastern producers. “Imagine a world in which oil cartels will no longer use energy as a weapon,” he said.

The United States currently produces about 55 percent of the oil it uses, with another quarter of the total coming from Canada and Mexico, and less than 20 percent coming from OPEC, according to U.S. Energy Department statistics.

Trump’s advisers, including U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, have said they suggested Trump examine the role of OPEC in the global oil price slump since 2014, which has contributed to the demise of a handful of smaller U.S. oil companies. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have declined to cut production to support prices.

Until Thursday, Trump had been short on details of his energy policy. He has said he believes global warming is a hoax, that his administration would revive the U.S. coal industry, and that he supports hydraulic fracturing – an environmentally controversial drilling technique that has triggered a boom in U.S. production.

Earlier this month, he told Reuters in an interview that he would renegotiate “at a minimum” the U.N. global climate accord agreed by 195 countries in Paris last December, saying he viewed the deal as bad for U.S. business.

He took that a step further in North Dakota. “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement,” he said.

Trump also promised he would invite Canadian pipeline company TransCanada to reapply to build the Keystone XL pipeline into the United States, reversing a decision by Obama to block the project over environmental concerns.

“I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits,” Trump said. “That’s how we’re going to make our country rich again.”

Trump’s pledge briefly sent TransCanada’s shares 29 Canadian cents higher to C$54.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but the stock quickly leveled back off and close up 2 Canadian cents at C$53.86.

In response to Trump’s promise that he would seek more profits from the pipeline, TransCanada spokesman James Millar noted the project would create jobs, offer major contracts to U.S. suppliers and provide tens of millions in taxes for state coffers.

“The pipeline will benefit American workers longer term as the companies they work for have signed contracts to ship and refine oil through Keystone XL,” Millar said in an email.


Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tiffany Wu

Photo: Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Bismarck, North Dakota US May 26, 2016.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    

Oil Prices And Politics Blur Future Of Keystone XL Pipeline

By William Yardley, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Remember the Keystone XL pipeline?

It began as a proposed piece of energy infrastructure — a pipeline shortcut that would transport more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, across the U.S. border, through the upper Great Plains and south to refineries in Texas.

But Keystone XLP Opponents said rejecting it would also reject the fossil-fueled past and present in favor of a renewable-energy future. Supporters said it would generate thousands of jobs and help provide national energy security at a time of international turmoil.

The truth was more complicated, but neither side gave ground. The Obama administration, which has ultimate authority because the pipeline would cross an international boundary, was expected to approve or disapprove it at any moment.

Of course, that was long ago — back when oil prices were soaring, Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state, the company that wants to build the pipeline had not yet realized the strength of the opposition from some Nebraska landowners, and President Barack Obama was worrying more about re-election than reaching a global climate agreement during upcoming talks in Paris.

Years later, Obama still has not made a decision on Keystone XL. He could do so any day — or he could leave the issue to whoever wins the presidency in 2016.

Q: What has changed since the pipeline was conceived?

A: The price of oil, which had exceeded $100 a barrel in recent years, has fallen below $50. Low prices have affected production in many places in North America, including Alberta, where tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in recent months, oil rig activity has declined by at least half in the first seven months of the year, and corporate profits are expected to be half of what they were last year, according to provincial economic forecasts.

Q: Have Canadian politics shifted too?

A: Yes. Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, a liberal elected this spring, has initiated a review of whether oil companies contribute enough royalties to the province. Notley also says the oil industry needs to improve environmental protections — a notable assertion in a province that is running a multibillion-dollar deficit in part because of its heavy dependence on the struggling industry. And she says she would rather see Alberta oil refined within Canada instead of transported through the United States.

Q: Is anything likely to change after Monday’s elections in Canada?

A: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been a steadfast supporter of Keystone XL, stepped down as the leader of the Conservative Party after the election loss.

Winner Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, supports the project but promises closer environmental oversight, including finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trudeau has accused Harper of damaging Canadian-U.S. relations by focusing too much on the pipeline.

Q: Has anything changed with TransCanada, the company that has been trying to build Keystone XL for a decade?

A: Although TransCanada says the near-term economic situation has not affected its ambitions, the company did recently change tactics.

Faced with legal challenges in Nebraska to a state law that allowed the company to establish a pipeline route and take property by eminent domain, TransCanada decided last month not to use that law. Instead, it will apply for a permit through a more traditional process with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Although the commission could take a year to make a decision — and more lawsuits could follow –Mark Cooper, a spokesman for TransCanada, said, “This is the most strategic way to move forward.”

Q: Why did TransCanada back down?

A: Perhaps because it fears the Obama administration will reject Keystone XL. Creating a delay of its own might persuade the president to leave the decision to the next administration. (Even if Obama rejects the pipeline, however, the company could reapply.)

Cooper said TransCanada’s “focus is not on political machinations.”

“If the project is judged on its merits, it’ll be approved,” Cooper said. “If it’s judged on science over symbolism, it’ll be approved.”

Q: What are American politicians saying?
A: The leading Republican presidential candidates support Keystone XL. (Some of them also deny that climate change is real.) They have criticized the Obama administration for delaying its decision.

The leading Democratic candidates oppose the pipeline. Even Clinton, who as secretary of state said she was “inclined” to approve it, now opposes it.

“I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change,” Clinton said last month in Iowa. She waited so long to express her opposition, she said, out of respect for the Obama administration, which she had expected to decide earlier.

Q: What will Obama do?

A: Although the State Department is responsible for reviewing the project to determine whether it is “in the national interest,” Obama has made clear that he will make the final decision. There is a growing sense that he will reject Keystone XL.

Obama said in 2013 that he would not want the project to significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. This year, a top official in the Environmental Protection Agency told the State Department in a letter that tar sands crude “represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions” over conventional crude, and that Keystone XL could lead to expanded production of greenhouse gases. The EPA letter was seen as providing potential cover for the president to reject Keystone XL.

With Obama’s recent moves to reduce emissions from power plants, limit truck pollution and even travel to the Alaska Arctic to bring attention to climate change, the president is widely seen as trying to burnish his environmental legacy while positioning the United States to lead a push for a global accord on emissions reductions at the Paris conference at the end of the year.

The timing of any announcement remains uncertain. A State Department official said Monday that “our review process is ongoing.”

Photo: A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Andrew Cullen)

Clinton Breaks Silence On Keystone Pipeline, Opposes It

By Amanda Becker

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has long avoided a firm position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, broke her silence on Tuesday and said she opposed it.

“I have a responsibility to you and other voters,” Clinton, a former secretary of state, said at a town hall event in Iowa about TransCanada Corp’s project to bring Canadian oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico via Nebraska.

“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe is the distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change.”

“Therefore, I oppose it,” she said.

Environmental activists close to Clinton’s campaign said the timing of her remarks was driven by her desire to make clear her opposition before the Oct. 13 Democratic debate. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, opposes the pipeline and had urged her to take a position on the project.

Clinton’s opinion about the pipeline has been closely watched. In 2010, as secretary of state, she said she was inclined to approve it. Asked repeatedly about the project since she entered the race in April, she has declined to state her stance.

Keystone XL supporters say the pipeline would increase North American energy security and provide thousands of construction jobs. Opponents say it would increase greenhouse gas emissions by speeding development of Canada’s oil sands.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision in coming months on the pipeline that has been pending for seven years.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker in Des Moines and Timothy Gardner and Alana Wise in Washington; Editing by Tim Ahmann and David Gregorio)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Community Forum on Substance Abuse at The Boys and Girls Club of America campaign event in Laconia New Hampshire, September 17, 2015.    REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi 

This post has been updated.