- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Environmental activists are trying to force the Keystone XL oil pipeline back into the political spotlight by demanding 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls sign a pledge to revoke President Trump’s approval of the project.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee were the only ones to immediately sign the pledge.

It is a jarring reminder of how opposition to the proposed 1,184-mile pipeline from Canada to Nebraska went from being a top campaign issue for Democrats in 2016 to barely getting lip service in 2020.

The pipeline is an afterthought, at best, as the Democratic candidates call for a “Green New Deal” environmentalist overhaul of the economy.

To get the pipeline back in the conversation, a coalition of landowners, Tribal Nations and environmental groups sent the Democratic candidates a letter Tuesday that urged them to sign the “NoKXL Pledge.” It is a pledge to revoke Mr. Trump’s permit for the pipeline on the first day of their presidency.

The activists said the pipeline project, which they have been fighting for a decade, deserves to be at the forefront of the climate change debate.

“You either stand with family farmers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, and environmentalists — or you stand with fossil fuel corporations who are abusing eminent domain, and trampling on the treaty rights of Tribal Nations,” said Jane Kleeb, founder of the environmental group Bold Nebraska.

Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at the green energy advocacy group Oil Change U.S., said the pledge should be a litmus test for the Democratic candidates.

“Talking a big game on climate doesn’t mean much if you’re still building massive pipelines like Keystone XL and doing the fossil fuel industry’s bidding,” he said. “Any candidate who wants to be taken seriously on climate needs to stand up to Big Oil and say, ‘No.’”

Upon receiving word of the pledge, Mr. Inslee quickly got onboard.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen. Where do I sign?” tweeted Mr. Inslee, who has made fighting climate change the singular issue of his campaign.

The Keystone XL pipeline would extend from Canada’s oil sands to Nebraska, where it would connect with pipelines going to Gulf Coast refineries.

As one of his first moves in office, Mr. Trump revived the project that had been blocked by the Obama administration. Mr. Trump said it would bring a boon of 28,000 construction jobs and boost U.S. energy production.

Court challenges by environmental groups ensured. Mr. Trump has managed to keep the project moving forward, including issuing a new permit after a district court judge in Montana ordered a halt of construction on the pipeline.

Several top contenders in the Democratic race did not respond to The Washington Times’ inquiry about the NoKXL Pledge, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

They all voiced opposition to the project in the past, though Mr. Biden hedged his position before the Obama administration nixed the pipeline in 2015.

Mr. Biden will have to balance the need to satisfy environmental activists opposed to the pipeline with unions that want pipeline jobs.

Courting unions has been a hallmark of the Biden campaign, as he argues that his close ties to unions make him uniquely suited to peel off blue-collar voters from Mr. Trump’s base.

In the 2016 race, Mr. Sanders’ outspoken opposition to Keystone XL eventually prodded Hillary Clinton to reverse on her support for the oil pipeline.

He also blasted Mr. Trump for reviving the project in 2017, saying the president “put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet.”

Still, the pipeline has not been a feature of Mr. Sanders’ stump speech this year.

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