Montana Lawmakers Urge Approval of Keystone Pipeline; Group Protests in Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

Last week the U.S. State Department released a long-awaited report on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada 1,179 miles to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines and carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The report raised no significant environmental objections to the pipeline, marking a victory for proponents, who argue the project would create jobs and strengthen America’s energy security. Environmentalists disagree and insist approval would fly in the face of President Barack Obama’s promise to fight climate change, even as the report gives him political cover to approve it. They argue the report, which provides a detailed assessment of tar sands emissions, offers Obama more than enough justification to oppose the pipeline.

The local group Glacier Climate Action announced it would host a protest vigil on Feb.3 at the corner of Spokane and Second Street in Whitefish. The event was tied to a national rally calling on Obama to reject the Keystone XL because “it will be a huge source of carbon pollution and clearly fails the climate test.”

“The United States government allows Arch Coal, ExxonMobile and Royal Dutch Shell to pollute for free,” said rally organizer Steve Thompson. “In fact, taxpayers currently subsidize fossil fuel companies that spew climate pollution into the atmosphere. Until that free lunch ends and we give renewable energy a level playing field, American citizens will take to the streets to oppose the biggest climate polluters: Coal and the Alberta tar sands.”

Montana’s lawmakers have all expressed support for the proposed pipeline. Here are statements issued last week.

Gov. Steve Bullock:
“I’m pleased that the State Department, after conducting an environmental study, has given this important project an initial green light and I appreciate the thoughtful review the project has been given. I’ve said all along that if done right, and private property rights are protected, the Keystone XL Pipeline will create much-needed jobs, advance our domestic energy security and add to the vitality of our rural communities. I look forward to seeing this project continue to move forward.”

Sen. Max Baucus:
“After five years of studies and red tape, it’s well past time to put Americans to work building the Keystone pipeline. The president’s own State Department has released three studies showing there will be no harm to the environment. There are no more excuses left. Americans can’t afford to wait any longer for Keystone jobs.”

Sen. Jon Tester:
“I will keep fighting for the Keystone Pipeline until it is built to the highest safety standards and with respect for private property rights. The pipeline will strengthen our economy and let us continue to cut our oil imports from countries that wish us harm.”

Rep. Steve Daines:
“The U.S. State Department issued its final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline, which once again confirmed what the people of Montana have known for more than five years: the Keystone XL pipeline will have no significant impacts on the environment, but it will create hundreds of good Montana jobs and help keep energy prices low for hard-working Montana families. Report after report has stated that the Keystone XL pipeline will not have significant environmental impacts, yet President Obama refuses to act. No more excuses, no more delays — it’s time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.”