Steyer says Keystone XL won’t define Obama’s climate legacy while Earth Day protest draws sparse crowd

Today is Earth Day – one of the biggest days of the year for activists across the globe, yet Keystone XL opponents were only able to draw about 60 to 70 folks to Washington DC for the Cowboy Indian Alliance protest, as Politico reported earlier today.

Meanwhile we have some breaking news: as Keystone XL opponents were marching on the mall, billionaire activist Tom Steyer today downplayed the importance of Keystone XL for President Obama’s climate legacy.  As Steyer said, “He’s going to have a body of work on energy and the environment that is not going to be totally dominated by Keystone.”  That’s a pretty big departure for Steyer who has been saying for months that Obama’s “legacy issue 20 years from now” will be Keystone XL. Of note, we didn’t see Steyer in the crowd today…

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That’s not all. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy also weighed in today saying Keystone XL “is not the biggest thing that’s changing the energy world in the U.S.”

Even the New York Times, not exactly a shill for oil, destroyed Keystone XL opponents’ climate argument this week, explaining,

“But when it comes to the pipeline’s true impact on global warming, energy and climate change experts — including former Obama administration officials — say Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.”

The article goes on to say,

“[T]he carbon emissions produced by oil that would be moved in the Keystone pipeline would amount to less than 1 percent of United States greenhouse gas emissions, and an infinitesimal slice of the global total.”

Further it’s clear the “people in the path” of Keystone XL overwhelmingly support the pipeline.  Just yesterday, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman asked the state supreme court to throw out the ruling that could delay the construction of Keystone XL.  And of course, a Pew poll released late last year found that in the states which the pipeline would traverse – Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – 69 percent support Keystone XL while 28 percent are opposed.

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Labor and union workers, who would have jobs constructing the pipeline in those states, blasted President Obama’s failure to make decision on Keystone XL.  Terry O’Sullivan, President of the Laborers International Union of North America (LUINA) called it a “gutless move” and “another low blow to the working men and women of our country for whom the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lifeline to good jobs and energy security.” Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions said it was a “cold, hard slap in the face for hard working Americans who are literally waiting for President Obama’s approval and the tens of thousands of jobs it will generate.”

Sparse attendance is nothing new for opponents.  As you might remember, they only had around 10 people show up to their Christmas tree lighting protest and about a dozen protesters outside of President Obama’s climate speech in Georgetown.  Only “a handful of protesters” made it to DC for what was supposed to be a “historic” summer heat climate rally.

Even outspoken activists like Tom Steyer are walking back the importance of Keystone XL.  And the American people know that President Obama’s delay is due to politics rather than “legitimate concerns” about the pipeline.  So is it any wonder that today’s protest drew so few?

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