Anti-Keystone XL activists flip-flop again – admit oil sands will be developed regardless of Keystone XL

And the flip-flopping from Keystone XL opponents continues.  Earlier this week, after claiming for years the oil sands from Keystone XL would go to China, the NRDC came out with a paper arguing instead that there would be “a flood” of oil sands in the Midwest and Northeast states.  Then Tom Steyer came out with an ad claiming exactly the opposite – that the oil would go to China.  For what it’s worth, the last time Steyer tried to make that claim the New Yorker called him out for twisting the facts.

Now, following those prominent flip-flops, a number of anti-Keystone XL groups, spearheaded by the Sierra Club, sent a letter to the State Department demanding that it evaluate the cumulative greenhouse gas impacts of both the expansion of Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline and Keystone XL.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to remember some of the statements the Sierra Club has made about Keystone XL over the past few years:

  • “Keystone XL is the ‘keystone’ to expanding the tar sands”
  • “[T]he oil industry’s plans to expand tar sands development are not possible without this pipeline.”
  • “Tell the State Department: Keystone XL is key to tar sands boom […] Take action to make sure State acknowledges that Keystone XL is key to expanding the climate-polluting tar sands!

As Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune put it in a press release last summer,

[W]ithout Keystone XL the industry cannot expand production of tar sands crude, the world’s dirtiest, most carbon-polluting source of oil.”

Now consider what Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes had to say this week:

“If you look at each project in isolation, it doesn’t present the full picture,” Doug Hayes, the Sierra Club lawyer who drafted the petition to Secretary of State John Kerry, said in an interview. “They need to look at the two projects together to see if there will be a climate impact.”

In other words, after five years of looking at Keystone XL “in isolation” claiming time and time again that without Keystone XL oil sands will stay in the ground, the Sierra Club is now saying that we can’t see the project “in isolation.”

And what have opponents been saying about oil sands being transported by pipelines other than Keystone XL?  Take for instance a letter that many of these same groups sent to the State Department in June 2013 which proclaims:

The Keystone XL pipeline’s role in expanding market access for tar sands is significant in light of the challenges faced by other pipelines and transport infrastructure and the challenges that may lie ahead for Canada to expand its markets beyond the United States. Therefore, the pipeline clearly facilitates tar sands production growth and its consequent environmental impacts.”

The NRDC, which also signed this most recent letter, had this to say in a July 2013 white paper:

“Regardless, even if all of the other pipelines proposals were to move ahead, they would not provide western Canada with sufficient capacity to support the tar sands industry’s expansion plans through 2030.”

Now, in their letter this week, these groups have completely changed their tune:

“[W]e hereby request that the Department of State prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (“EIS”) for the Keystone XL pipeline that analyzes, among other things, the cumulative climate impacts of the multiple tar sands pipeline proposals currently pending before the agency.

The biggest irony of all is this: opponents hinged their entire argument on Keystone XL being the linchpin to oil sands development because if it wasn’t, their case against the pipeline made absolutely no sense.  Now, they’re arguing the opposite – but their problem still remains: if oil sands will be developed regardless (which is what OSFC has been saying from the beginning) then Keystone XL clearly passes President Obama’s climate test and should be approved immediately.

In their latest stunt, groups like the Sierra Club and the NRDC have revealed themselves to be organizations that don’t care about the facts; they will flip-flop at the drop of a hat if they see an opportunity potentially to delay the project.  Ironically, all they’ve done is just provide even more evidence for why Keystone XL should be approved.

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