The Obama administration did last night what many in environmental circles figured had a slim chance of happening: they listened.
After months of massive protests, PSAs, rallies and campaigns, the White House decided to delay making a decision on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline; a $7 billion project that would span 1,700 miles from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in the Gulf.
"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," said the president.
The cynic inside me sees such a delay as a convenient way to put the issue off (and corral green-minded voters to back Obama) until after the 2012 election season. Granted, I'm not so sure many involved in conservation would enthusiastically back a Republican candidate hungry for "Drill, Baby, Drill," but Obama now has a trump card to hold up that reads: "Vote for me and I'll really make sure this is either done right — or not done at all."
On the flip side, and as many green orgs have pointed out, more time means more scrutiny of a project that is increasingly seen as placing oil before people.
"Many Americans are today tired of corporations calling the shots in Washington. This is a shot called not by the corporations, but by the voices of the people who were outside the fence of the White House on Sunday," National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger told the Washington Post. "This is a sleeping giant, and they have awakened the giant of the environmental movement."
One celebrity and environmental leader that immediately praised the President for his decision was Robert Redford. The 75-year-old has been working with the Natural Resources Defense Council to raise awareness about the dangers of the Keystone. On Thursday, he said the move by the administration was a victory for the American people.
"This is American democracy at its best: a President who listens to the voice of the people and shows the courage to do what's right for the country," he said. "Thank you, Mr. President, for standing up to Big Oil. Thank you for standing up for us all."
Check out Redford's video response below.