The pressure on President Obama and newly minted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to reject the Keystone XL pipeline grows stronger each day, and this week saw the nation's leading nurses union jump into the debate.
National Nurses United cited "serious adverse health concerns" as its chief reason for coming out against the massive project, which continues to be held up by the Obama administration.
"Nurses care for patients every day who struggle with health crises aggravated by environmental pollution in its many forms," union co-president Deborah Burger said in a statement this week. "As a society, we need to reduce the effects of environmental factors, including climate change, that are making people sick, and endangering the future for our children. That's why we oppose the Keystone XL pipeline."
The organization is among the latest to urge the White House and State Department — which must sign off on the project because it crosses an international boundary — to reject the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands through the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries.
The State Department is expected to soon issue its final review of the project, and environmental groups are counting on Mr. Kerry, for years one of the loudest voices in Congress against climate change, to quash Keystone once and or all.
A coalition of more than 60 environmental groups sent a letter to Mr. Kerry on Wednesday urging him to reject the pipeline and, in the process, lead the Obama administration's efforts to fight global warming.
"At a time when we must rapidly reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions, the U.S. must demonstrate bold leadership by refusing to aid the expansion of this destructive and carbon-intensive industry … this pipeline is not in our national interest," the letter reads in part.
The letter was signed by virtually every conservation and environmental group of note in the U.S., including powerful organizations such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and dozens of others.
Those environmental groups cite the greenhouse-gas emissions that would be caused directly and indirectly by Keystone as the main reason it must be stopped. The nurses union also listed that as its chief concern, arguing that those emissions will contribute to higher temperatures and therefore "increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella, and animal-borne diseases such as West Nile virus."
But supporters of the project, including a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress, point to the economic and energy benefits the pipeline would provide. They also dispute the supposed environmental catastrophe that awaits if the project moves forward.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recently signed off on the proposal after an extensive review and a change in the pipeline's route to avoid the most sensitive areas of the state. Other states along the path have conducted similar reviews and are confident Keystone can safely be built and operated.
With the Republican governor's approval, the pipeline has gotten the green light from every state along the route and now needs only approval from the Obama administration, which reportedly will not make a decision until June, at the earliest.
Such a delay surely will anger lawmakers eager to see the project break ground. It also will displease environmental groups and other critics who expect Mr. Obama to kill the pipeline as part of his pledge to act against climate change in his second term.
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