Tomorrow (22 April) is the closing date for public submissions to the State Department on the Keystone pipeline approval. I just put in my pennyworth – it is an international issue, else why has it landed on Kerry’s desk? Here it is, raising an issue that’s not been properly aired.
Dear Secretary Kerry:
I invite you to consider that approval of the Keystone pipeline would be divisive and lead to months or years of turmoil. There is no doubt that its construction would be the target of massive civil disobedience and non-violent protest. I personally would think such action justified, but regardless of the merits it cannot be ignored as a factor in your and the President’s decision.
You are both, by temperament and conviction, conciliators. Your approval of the Keystone pipeline would ignite a bitter and long-drawn-out conflict that would be chalked up to your legacies and undermine your historic reputations. Lives might be lost; certainly some protesters would be injured and a good number serve time in jail. It is also a burden on policemen to ask them to use force to protect a private interest many of them will think insufficient.
It is sadly possible that the intense anger aroused, and the broad non-violent protest already announced, would lead fringe groups to engage in violent sabotage. A pipeline is very vulnerable to this. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of opponents of the pipeline would join me in rejecting and condemning such tactics. Still, the possibility is a real cost of your decision.
Taking these severe risks into account is not “giving in to blackmail”. If the pipeline were truly necessary to US national security, the risks should be accepted. But no case has been made that it is. The pipeline would merely allow the commercial development of a dirty Canadian oil resource to proceed, and US oil prices to stay slightly lower than they would otherwise be, at enormous environmental cost. Any benefits it offers are largely private; the harms are public.
When you weigh all the costs carefully and soberly, the Keystone pipeline is simply not worth hazarding the credibility of your office, the President, and the US Government.