HUGE: Keystone XL Delayed

In an important (and honestly surprising) victory for the grassroots, President Obama has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

From Tar Sands Action:

…the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess….

And he has made clear that the environmental assessment won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company–that it will be an expert and independent assessment.

Note that Obama didn’t reject the pipeline outright, as activists have been demanding. Instead, he effectively put off the decision until after the elections, thus avoiding a political conundrum. While we didn’t get a strong statement against the Keystone XL, we did get a vindication of the anti-KXL movement.

Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week the CBC reported that TransCanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted.

And here is a statement from the White House, via the HuffPost:

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood,” Obama said. “The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.”

This all seems obvious to those of us who were aware of–and even helped expose–the depth of corruption in the review process. But make no mistake: Without the groundswell of opposition, Obama and the State Department would have quietly signed off on the project.

Now, the pipeline is delayed, perhaps permanently. Even if it resurfaces in 2013, we will have fresh verbal ammunition in the form of a (supposedly) independent impact study, as well as ample time to strengthen and reorganize our movement.

The Keystone XL victory–go ahead and call it that–is proof of the power that a collective political effort has. We can make a dramatic difference when we channel our convictions into sustained, nonviolent action.

And we’ll need plenty more of that in the days ahead. We can expect oil apologists and their allies in Washington to continue distorting the facts about Keystone XL jobs and energy independence. The difference: Now we have to confidence to stand up and keep moving forward.

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