After much ongoing debate, President Barack Obama vetoed legislation to approve further construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. What makes the announcement particularly exciting is that Obama cited environmental concerns, and particularly concerns about climate change, as his reason for issuing the veto. With the move, the President is proving himself to be a leader when it comes to taking action against global climate change.
“President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate. That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight. We’re well aware that the next president could undo all this, but this is a day of celebration,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
Running from Alberta, Canada across the U.S. border into Illinois, the current Keystone XL represents less than a third of the envisioned project. The remaining stretch of pipeline has already been built and is proposed to run through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, ultimately to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Advocates argue that Keystone will create American jobs but opponents fear the adverse environmental effects of tar sand oil mining. According to a State Department review, extracting crude oil from oil sands releases about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard oil extraction.
Proponents of the pipeline are expecting this to be the first of many in a series of vetoes on measures that Republicans will send to Washington. After Republicans took control of the Senate in January, the President has proposed plans to reject several GOP backed measures including bills overturning his executive action on immigration and legislation reversing the Affordable Care Act. It is presently unlikely that GOP policymakers will have any traction on reversing the veto.