Today we met with two officials with the Oceans, Environment and Science department, one of the departments that worked on the Clipper pipeline project. While the officials avoided giving us their names or positions, we imagine that one works in PR while the other is more policy focused. They thanked us for our wonderful visual skits and the over 10,000 phone calls and emails Avaaz.org generated. They emphasized that we should have gotten involved earlier, during the public comment part of the two year process, where over 6000 stakeholders submitted their opinions.
The PR guy emphasized that the US plan to reduce oil emissions centers around CAFE standards and what a great improvement we've had in that area. He said that we should bring the Tar Sands Monster skit to an Escalade factory if we really want to make a difference. The woman, who was sorry to have missed the skit, said that the next pipeline project has already started the approval process, and they expect the public comment period to be open in December or January. They both also pointed out that their role was more approving the crossing of the U.S. border, but that there were various other regulatory agencies that needed to sign off on the pipeline as well.
Our biggest question: What kind of a signal do you send the world, as we near the Copenhagen climate negotiations, when we approve a major expansion in international dirty energy infrastructure? Answer: We need to make decision in the 'here and now' and not for their symbolic power. They added that because of the close cooperation on this project and the negotiating that went on, Canada will be under more pressure to come to Copenhagen ready to negotiate.
Their biggest message to us: the work of Avaaz and the Action Factory with our skit, our phone calls and letters, as well as those of the Sierra Club and NRDC, had a big impact on this process. That pressure forced them to more fully consider the climate impacts of the project and to include climate change in the statements issued both within the US and to Canada now that the pipeline is approved.
For more information on the next major pipeline project, the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, see the State Department website here:
Also see NRDC's letter here
Putting in place a climate policy that will truly fight global warming needs to happen at all levels - from the negotiations in Copenhagen to the debate in the House and Senate and even to the level of consideration of a pipeline permit. If we allow individual projects to move forward without sufficient analysis of how they link to the goal of building a clean energy future - we undermine our own policy commitments and priorities.
It is not in our national interest to invest in pipelines and refineries that will lock us into the high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil production, transportation and upgrading. Instead of pipelines for tar sands oil, we need to be building the infrastructure for our clean energy economy so that in the future, we will not depend on oil - and especially not on the even dirtier tar sands oil.