* Environmentalists arrested in front of White House
* Oil and gas lobby plans national advertising campaign
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 Environmentalists and
industry groups ramped up efforts on Wednesday to sway the White
House's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project, a day
after U.S. President Barack Obama said he will take action to
curb climate-warming emissions.
A small group of activists and celebrities staged a protest
in front of the White House to put pressure on Obama to reject
the controversial proposed crude oil pipeline. About four dozen
protesters, including actress Daryl Hannah, were arrested.
The action came ahead of a rally planned for Sunday on
Washington's National Mall, which organizers have dubbed "the
largest climate rally in history".
The TransCanada Corp pipeline would transport
830,000 barrels of crude from the oil sands of northern Alberta,
the world's third largest crude resource, to refineries and
ports in Texas. TransCanada has been waiting for approval for
Environmentalists say approval of the pipeline will
encourage more development in the oil sands, where extraction is
carbon intensive, leading to greater greenhouse gas emissions.
The State Department in the coming days is due to issue a
new environmental impact statement on the project, which is
expected to guide the White House as it decides whether to give
the project the go-ahead.
Obama had been widely expected to approve the pipeline after
the governor of Nebraska approved a revised route through his
state that avoided ecologically sensitive areas and aquifers.
But doubts rose after Obama made a surprise emphasis on
climate change in his January inaugural address, leading
pipeline watchers to question whether the president would heed
pressure from environmentalists.
Still, Canada's Natural Resources Minister said on Wednesday
he was cautiously optimistic that Washington would approve the
The American Petroleum Institute, the country's biggest oil
and gas lobbying group, and some labor unions said they were
also quietly confident that Obama will approve Keystone.
"This is the one of the most scrutinized infrastructure
projects in our nation's history," Sean McGarvey, president of
building and construction at labor union group AFL-CIO.
"The president has thoughtfully and methodically looked at
this issue. I have no doubt that the president will make the
Many environmental groups welcomed Obama's focus on climate
change in Tuesday's State of the Union speech. But some warned
that the Keystone decision would be more meaningful
"I'm glad to see the president, after the long, odd silence
of the campaign, ratcheting up the rhetoric about climate
change," said Bill McKibben, founder of environmental group
350.org. "The test of that rhetoric will be what he does about
the purest, simplest test: the Keystone XL pipeline."
McKibben and National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People President Julian Bond were also among the
protesters arrested in Wednesday's action outside the White
Meanwhile, the API is ramping up pressure on Obama to
approve Keystone, which its members say will create more jobs
and help ensure U.S. energy security. The group plans a national
advertising campaign and "grassroots events across the country,"
urging Obama to approve the project.
Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner,
have called on the president not to delay the decision further.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an online
clock this week that tallies how long it has been since the
project was first submitted for approval.
Some policy analysts guess that with greater scrutiny over
his Keystone decision, Obama could announce other carbon cutting
measures if he were to approve the pipeline.
Joshua Saks, legislative director at the National Wildlife
Federation, rejected such a trade-off.
"You can't do something else to mitigate the enormous
effects of passing the Keystone pipeline," he said.
But Paul Bledsoe, an energy consultant who served on the
White House Climate Change Task Force under President Bill
Clinton, said Obama should roll out sweeping regulations
targeting emissions at power plants, which account for one-third
of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, if he approves the pipeline.
"It would be logical to package this and greenhouse
regulations together," said Bledsoe.
Environmental groups should not dwell on Keystone, Bledsoe
said, calling it "one isolated decision" within Obama's overall
"long-term climate change vision."
"A slavish devotion to the wishes of the environmental lobby
got the president into a boat load of trouble last time," he
said. Bledsoe was referring to Obama's failed first-term attempt
to make to make polluters such as power plants pay for each ton
of carbon they produced, a move that proved hugely unpopular
during the severe economic downturn at the time.