With the U.S. Senate poised to begin debate on a bill that would greenlight the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as early as Tuesday, activists and other citizens have barraged the Senate with more than 350,000 petitions opposing the legislation in less than five hours.
Activists Bill McKibben, Robert Redford and other celebs such as Kyra Sedgwick and Ian Somerhalder have joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, the Sierra Club and other groups in coordinating the petition effort. The goal is 500,000 messages to the Senate by Tuesday.
“It’s a tremendous effort from a wide variety of activists and organizations saying this isn’t fair, this is bad politics, and they’re letting their opinions be known," said Elizabeth Shope, advocate at the NRDC.
A rider on a payroll tax bill passed last December required President Obama to make a decision about TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline by Feb. 21. His administration decided well in advance of that date to reject the Keystone environmental approval application, saying there would be insufficient time to complete an environmental review, thus stopping the project. Now there is a new effort, led by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to resuscitate the project by bypassing the environmental review and switching the decision-making power from the the Environmental Protection Agency to the Congress.
If the bill were to pass the Senate, it would still need Obama’s signature. He has already demonstrated his unwillingness to push the project forward without a proper environmental review, which would be eliminated by the bill.
“The bottom line is that the approval mandate creates a bad process, when the route for the pipeline has not been finalized yet and the environmental review is not complete. Right now we’re just trying to be sure that the Senate knows that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in the national interest,” Shope said.