The proposal to run a massive pipeline from Canada through six states to refineries on the Gulf Coast never really made much sense. The construction of the pipeline itself would devastate critical habitats, including breeding grounds for several birds such as the Canada Warbler, an Audubon priority species. Then, there was the near-inevitability that oil from the 800,000 barrels-a-day capacity pipe would spill at one point or another. Oil does not really mix well with...well, anything in the natural world. It could have leaked all over the Greater Sage-Grouse’s habitat, devastating years of work to preserve that species, or gushed over the home of Sandhill Cranes. It could have killed unknown numbers of birds while poisoning habitat.
On top of those really big immediate problems, of course, was Keystone’s broader environmental context: The pipeline proposal was a push to create more infrastructure designed to support carbon-polluting fossil fuels in a time when clear consensus says this is exactly the opposite of what we ought to be doing if we want to stop destroying the planet. Climate change is already posing an enormous threat to at least 314 bird species in North America, as well as disturbing countless of other critical ecosystems and natural processes in ways we don’t even yet understand.
So rejecting the proposal—which President Barack Obama did this morning—is pretty much common sense, but it’s also a particularly reassuring indicator of how serious Obama is taking climate change in the lead up to the COP21 climate talks in Paris in just a few weeks.
In the words of Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold: “America’s Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife that were threatened by the pipeline can’t vote, so we’re popping some corks for them today.”