Now that the Obama administration has decided to seek a new route for the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline — a process that's expected to delay a final decision until 2013 — many environmentalists find themselves unsure how to react. Some are declaring "victory," others are cautiously cheering, and some are taking a more cynical view, seeing it as merely a political punt.
Here's a collection of reactions from people who have been closely involved in the Keystone XL debate in recent weeks and months:
"I support the State Department's announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. 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. 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."
"It's important to understand how unlikely this victory is. 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. A done deal has come spectacularly undone. The American people spoke loudly about climate change and the president responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in recent years, so that makes this an important day."
President, Natural Resources Defense Council
"President Obama took a stand for the people of Nebraska today, and Americans everywhere, when his administration stood up to Big Oil to say we won't put our people, waters and croplands at risk for the sake of pipeline profits and dirty fuels. That kind of leadership takes courage, and I applaud the president for doing the right thing. ... This is a major victory. For months, we've demonstrated the State Department's review of the pipeline was flawed, inadequate, and possibly even biased. This project simply cannot withstand scrutiny. We are confident that after thorough review, President Obama will kill this dangerous pipeline once and for all."
Director, Bold Nebraska
"President Obama is making the right and tough decision for our land and water. The announcement contradicts those in Nebraska that say it's too late to put regulations in place. Now, more than ever, the Legislature needs to take action on behalf of the citizens of Nebraska. They have run out of excuses."
statement to the New York Times
"I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard. We've tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer. I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline."
President, American Petroleum Institute
"This decision is deeply disappointing and troubling. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear, but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers. There is no real issue about the environment that requires further investigation, as the president's own State Department has recently concluded after extensive project reviews that go back more than three years. This is about politics and keeping a radical constituency opposed to any and all oil and gas development in the president's camp in November 2012."
statement to the Calgary Sun
"Alberta is steadfastly committed to this project and my government will continue to advocate that we are the safest, most secure and responsible source of oil for the United States. I will seek immediate answers from U.S. officials to determine why this decision was made and how the process will unfold going forward."
Senior fellow, Center for International Policy
statement to the New York Times
"This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year. That's why I'm a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist's vote a year's delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no."
in a YouTube response
"For months now big oil has done everything it could to pressure President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama didn't cave to the pressure. He weighed the facts and he looked at the kind of future he promised when he ran for president. He made a tough decision by doing what was right for America, for our health and for our clean energy future. So I join many others, Mr. President, in saying thank you. Thank you for standing up to big oil, and for standing with your fellow Americans."