Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the House and Senate GOP plan to attach an amendment forcing the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to a completely unrelated piece of legislation. This time around, it’s the transportation bill that is getting the Keystone amendment. While killing the worst transportation bill ever offered wouldn’t be a total tragedy, the GOP’s continued attempts to force through the pipeline at any cost is starting to get old.
We’ve discussed all the reasons the Keystone XL pipeline should be rejected. Among the many: the pipeline is not a job creator, the environmental consequences of the pipeline will be disastrous, and it will do little to bring us closer to energy independence. Adding to this list, the claims of reinvigorating the steel industry seem to be false. Just last week, Representative Mike Doyle challenged TransCanada to certify its claim that 75 percent of the steel would come from North America because he had discovered that 148 miles of the pipeline had already been constructed in India.
Meanwhile, the real job creator is continually ignored. A new report details how investments in clean energy and environmental sustainability resulted in one of the few sectors to report job growth during a time of overall job loss. While the total number of jobs created dropped by one percent in 2007-2008, green jobs grew during that same time period by five percent.
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his support for the development of clean energy sources that will create jobs and protect the environment. But while developing clean energy is essential for moving us into the 21st century energy marketplace, the way we build our clean energy future also matters. We must develop energy without harming public health and the environment.
A natural gas extraction process, commonly referred to as fracking, was cited in last night’s State of the Union as an example of clean energy. But using fracking to extract natural gas is anything but clean. In fact, the process produces more greenhouse gas emissions over time than traditional methods of oil drilling or coal mining, according to a Cornell University Study. In addition, fracking poses a great risk to public health and property, as evidenced by the multiple documented cases of severe water contamination near fracking sites, including water than can be actually set on fire as it comes out of the faucet.
Though Obama pledged to “develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk,” it is unclear as to how this would be accomplished. A loophole in the 2005 energy law (often called the Cheney or Halliburton loophole) granted oil and gas industries an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot require drilling companies to disclose the toxic chemicals used in fracking, or limit their activities in order to protect drinking water. And, following an order from Congress, the EPA has not yet finalized an important national study on the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water. Thus, the public remains in the dark about the chemicals used in fracking, as well as the risks they pose to their drinking water.