Former Obama team member pushes White House to reject pipeline

Sunday, April 7, 2013 - 4:42pm

Bill Burton spent the greater part of the past two years working to get President Barack Obama re-elected.

Now he's in a different job, calling on the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project, which Obama's administration last month said would have no significant effect on the environment.

In an e-mail sent to Sunday news show staffs, Burton previewed the launch of a new coalition, "All Risk, No Reward," which takes a strong stance against its approval.

"The coalition will be targeting influential Democratic leaders in Washington and around the country as well as young voters with earned and paid media," Burton wrote in the memo, which was first reported by Politico. He added that the group will specifically "urge President Obama and [Secretary of State John] Kerry to reject it."

Burton left the White House as deputy press secretary in early 2011 to head the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. In January, a few months after the election, he joined the firm Global Strategy Group as an executive vice president.

Obama already approved the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline, which brings oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, he fast-tracked its approval and paved the way for construction last year.

The northern leg is more controversial, as it would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada down a 1,700 mile route to the Gulf Coast. Critics say the type of oil from Canada produces 5% to 30% more greenhouse gases than other types of conventional crude, and transporting it runs the risk of spills.

The State Department rejected a permit from the proposed pipeline's builder, TransCanada, last year, saying the route through Nebraska was too risky for the state's Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water to farmers and ranchers to raise livestock and grow crops.

After a new route was drawn and approved by the state's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, the State Department issued its draft environmental statement last month, saying the pipeline now poses no major damage.

That statement is open for a 45-day public comment period, and the Obama administration will make its decision later this year.

Recent oil pipeline spills in Arkansas and Texas, which weren't related to the Keystone project, have nonetheless brought renewed attention to the proposed pipeline, especially among those who oppose it. Burton cited the oil spills as a reason his team decided to move forward with their launch of the coalition.


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