February 10, 2012

Dear Senator:

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we write to express our vehement opposition to any and all legislation that would approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline would transport toxic tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest 1,700 miles to the Gulf of Mexico to be refined and exported. President Obama firmly rejected the permit for this project last month. Pending legislation would effectively turn Congress into a permitting authority, bypassing a robust environmental and safety review and approving a project for which a route has not even yet been determined. These efforts must be rejected. Congress should not be in the business of short-circuiting environmental and safety reviews to permit the individual pet projects of big oil.

The environmental and safety dangers from the pipeline are clear.  First, tar sands oil is the most carbon- intensive source of oil on the planet —the production process alone generates three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude oil. Developing tar sands is also destroying important forest lands that act as a carbon reservoir, further contributing to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would contribute an additional 27 million metric tons of CO2  annually – or the same amount of global warming pollution created by adding 4.8 million vehicles to the road, which would accelerate health impacts from global warming that are already occurring.

Moreover, the pipeline would do little for our energy security.  Its main purpose is to make this oil available for export.  Keystone XL would divert Canadian oil from refineries in the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. These refineries are in Foreign Trade Zones where oil may be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes.

By redirecting oil that is currently being shipped to the Midwest, Keystone XL would also serve to increase the price of fuel in the Midwest by $4-6 billion dollars in the first year of operation alone1.  This increase in price has caused farmers across the country to voice their opposition to this dangerous and costly project.

Finally, the pipeline itself poses grave dangers to America’s vital water resources.  Tar sands oil is more acidic and corrosive than conventional oil and transported under higher pressure, posing a far greater risk of leaks along the pipeline route.  This is not just a theoretical problem.  Over the last five years, pipelines in Midwestern states with the longest history of moving Canadian tar sands have spilled three times as much  crude per pipeline mile as the national average. The Keystone I tar sands pipeline was predicted to spill 1.4 times per decade, yet spilled fourteen times in its first year of operation.  Last summer, an older pipeline  system carrying tar sands oil spilled more than 800,000 gallons into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, causing health effects in a majority of Calhoun County residents living adjacent to the river. At a cost of over $725 million, this spill has been the most expensive U.S. pipeline accident on record.

The facts reveal this pipeline was never in America's national interest. Clean energy and fuel efficiency is the path forward for economic and energy security in America – not another tar sands pipeline. By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama helped move America down a cleaner, safer path.

Congress is now considering legislation that would preempt America’s environmental laws to approve a pipeline for which a route does not exist.  With this precedent, will the next Congress approve a project in your state while preempting the health, environmental, and safety laws that protect your citizens and your state’s farmlands?  We urge all members to oppose any and all attempts to pass legislation that would short circuit the laws our nation has relied on to balance development with protecting our country for future generations.


Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Frances Beinecke
Natural Resources Defense Council

Gene Karpinski
League of Conservation Voters

Philip D. Radford
Executive Director

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Trip Van Noppen

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Erich Pica
Friends of the Earth

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity

May Boeve
Executive Director

Catherin Thommason
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

David Moulton
Senior Director for Legislative Affairs
The Wilderness Society

Carroll Muffett
President and CEO
Center for International Environmental Law

Sandy Newman
Voices for Progress

Elisabeth MacNamara
League of Women Voters

Tom B.K. Goldtooth
Executive Director
Indigenous Environmental Network

Stephen Kretzmann
Executive Director
Oil Change International

Robert Irvin
President & CEO
American Rivers

Robert Weissman
Public Citizen

Jane Kleeb
Executive Director
Bold Nebraska

Denny Larson
Executive Director
Global Community Monitor

Joe Uehlein
Executive Director
Labor Network for Sustainability

Leda Huta
Executive Director
Endangered Species Coalition

Dan Becker
Safe Climate Campaign

Stephen Brittle
Don't Waste Arizona, Inc.

Kathleen Rogers
Earth Day Network

Gregg Small
Executive Director
Climate Solutions

Alisa Gravitz
Executive Director
Green America

John Cavanagh
Institute for Policy Studies

Bob Wendelgass
Clean Water Action

Don Morrison
Executive Director
Dakota Resource Council

Tim Rinne
State Coordinator
Nebraskans for Peace

Peter Bahouth
Executive Director
US Climate Action Network

Jerry Pardilla
Executive Director
National Tribal Environmental Council

Daniel L Sosland
Executive Director
ENE (Environment Northeast)

Becky Tarbotton
Executive Director
Rainforest Action Network

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President and CEO
Defenders of Wildlife

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