* 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 influence the
White House's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project, a
day after President Barack Obama said he would take action to
curb climate-warming emissions.
A small group of activists and celebrities protested in
front of the White House to put pressure on Obama to reject the
controversial proposed crude oil pipeline. Among the 48
protesters arrested and released on $100 bail were actress Daryl
Hannah and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his son
Conor Kennedy, said Maggie Kao, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club.
The action came before 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 4
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 put surprising 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 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 confident that Obama would 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 the AFL-CIO labor organization.
"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
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, who was among those arrested outside the White House on
Wednesday. "The test of that rhetoric will be what he does about
the purest, simplest test: the Keystone XL pipeline."
The American Petroleum Institute is also stepping 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 of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner, have called on the president not to delay
the decision further.
Some policy analysts speculate that Obama could announce
other carbon-cutting measures if he were to approve the
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.
Environmental groups should not dwell on Keystone, Bledsoe
said, calling it "one isolated decision" within Obama's overall
"long-term climate change vision."