In a letter released Thursday, 145 members of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns called on the president to “make the right decision” on the pipeline:
Mr. President, we are just a few of the millions of young people across the country who are frightened at the prospect of runaway climate change. One of the reasons we came to work for you in the first place is because we trust you understand how big this challenge is.
You already know all the reasons we can’t afford this pipeline — that it will lock in gigatons of carbon pollution over the next four decades and that it could spill into our nation’s most valuable water sources — we’re just asking you to think of us when you make up your mind. Dozens of supporters across the country told us they were casting their ballot for someone they could count on to make the tough calls when it came to our security and our health care and our climate. They voted for you, Mr. President, because we told them you’d be on the right side of history when you had to make these calls. Because we knew you’d do the right thing and stop this pipeline.
Public pushback against Keystone XL — which Obama is expected to decide on by this winter — has picked up over the past few months, following the State Department’s release of the project’s environmental impact statement. On Thursday, the 145 signatories joined billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer as he unveiled a social media campaign against Keystone XL that aims to garner support from Obama’s supporters. (Full disclosure: Steyer is a member of the Board of Directors at the Center for American Progress.) Also on Thursday, a group of nurses and environmental activists marched across the Golden Gate Bridge in hopes of highlighting the health impacts of the pipeline, which run from air pollution, to the risk of contaminated water and illness from spills, to the increased risk of disease spread in a warming world.
The renewed push against Keystone XL comes as recent reports and events shed light on the pipeline’s disputed safety and the environmental impacts of tar sands mining. If Keystone XL is built, TransCanada won’t be using the latest technology in spill detection for the pipeline; it would have to be spilling oil at a rate of 12,000 barrels a day before its spill detectors would sound an alarm. A report from Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board found TransCanada failed to clean up the “vast and expanding” toxic waste ponds leftover from tar sands mining, which kill about 7,000 ducks and geese every year. And a massive toxic waste spill from an oil and gas mining site in Alberta covered more than 1,000 acres in early June, causing “every plant and tree” to die.