March 22, 2012
President Obama Sacrifices Gas Policy for Gas Politics on Keystone XL Pipeline
Statement of Trevor Lovell, Environmental Program Coordinator, Public Citizen’s Texas Office
It is unfortunate that President Barack Obama has decided to ignore news stories in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and Financial Post, among others, explaining in simple terms how the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will raise gas prices for American consumers.
Public Citizen has long warned about Keystone’s health and safety risks, the environmental devastation associated with tar sands mining and its disproportionate impact on global climate change, and the unconscionable contributions to local air pollution in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Environmental Justice Showcase Communities” due to a concentration of environmental health risks that disproportionally burden minority communities.
But Keystone XL also poses another risk – a risk to U.S. consumers and the fragile economic recovery. Analysts and economists agree that building the southern leg of this pipeline will alleviate a glut of oil in Cushing, Okla., and allow more oil products to be exported to other countries, thereby reducing domestic supply and raising gas prices.
The southern leg of this pipeline does not bring oil into the country (a goal our organization does not endorse), but does create a clear path to get oil out to export markets. Since refined oil products are now the largest export commodity in the U.S., it is obvious that pushing more oil to the Gulf Coast will result in more export activity and less supply for Americans.
Today, Public Citizen renews its call for the president and relevant agencies to treat this pipeline as a tar sands pipeline. As construction has not yet begun, it would be imprudent to build the pipeline when we anticipate new findings from a congressionally mandated study on the unique dangers of tar sands pipelines, which may inform new regulations for this industry.
Texas may be an oil and gas state, but the health and safety of our citizens is no less important than it is anywhere else. Our water resources are threatened now more than ever, and this pipeline would cross the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in East Texas, which serves 60 counties and as many as 12 million people. When the presidential permit was denied earlier this year, the inadequate study of threats to Nebraskan water resources was cited as a central concern. Apparently water resources in Texas do not require the same kind of thorough review. Texans deserve protection from our elected and appointed leaders, and today President Obama has shown he is ready to sacrifice that protection for election-year politics.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.