Last Friday the State Department released its final environmental impact review of the proposed northern segment of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil pipeline. The immediate reaction from the press was that the environmental community would be disappointed as the review said the project “is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas.”
However, later that day, a consortium of more than 17 groups, with CREDO and Bill McKibben’s international organization 350.org among those taking the lead, reacted by calling for a nationwide vigil this past Monday to call on President Obama to step up to the challenge and remain good for his word last June. “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” the president said. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
The White House released a statement Friday night that appeared to be saying to advocates of going forward with yet another oil pipeline — not so fast. “The President has clearly stated that the project will be in the national interest only if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The final supplemental environmental impact statement includes a range of estimates of the project’s climate impacts, and that information will now need to be closely evaluated by Secretary [of State John] Kerry and other relevant agency heads in the weeks ahead,” said Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman. “A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration of the SEIS and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads,” he added.
Here on Martha’s Vineyard there is a growing awareness that the additional greenhouse gas emissions that will be spurred by the development of the tar sands oil will very likely add to the threats here of storm surge damage and sea level rise. So a small but determined group joined the national vigil Monday, out in the snow at Five Corners Vineyard Haven for an hour at noon. A local organization formed just over a year ago, 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island, connected to the international grass roots group 350.ORG, was able to rally in time and put the Vineyard on the map with thousands of other concerned folks.
Just two weeks ago, 350MVI launched a new website to serve as a networking hub to facilitate collaboration among the many Island organizations and individuals already working on the multiple issues connected to climate change and to serve the rest of us here in this Island community who are beginning to see now that our shorelines and weather patterns are changing, we must respond going forward.