Pulitzer winning climate news.
facebook twitter subscribe
view counter





Donate to InsideClimate News through our secure page on Network for Good.

Obama's New Special Adviser Is Outspoken Foe of Keystone XL and Tar Sands

'Oil extraction from tar sands is polluting, destructive, expensive, and energy intensive,' John Podesta said in a speech in 2010.

Dec 10, 2013
(Page 2 of 2 )
John Podesta

Podesta's operation publishes the blog ClimateProgress, whose founding editor Joe Romm has been a consistent voice against the Keystone; the blog was expanded significantly this year in another signal of how seriously CAP takes the issue. Other members of the CAP policy staff, like Daniel Weiss, its director of climate policy, also play leading roles in marshaling opposition to the pipeline.

The group's detailed policy prescriptions include urging the Obama administration to put into effect a policy drafted several years ago to explicitly require that the greenhouse gas emissions and climate consequences of all major federal actions be thoroughly reviewed under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. That could have required the State Department’s environmental impact statement on the Keystone to give stricter scrutiny to the line, for example by emphasizing the cumulative effects of emissions, or by demanding some form of offsetting mitigation.

When asked about Podesta's appointment, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said: "It's not our place to comment on potential staff changes at the White House, but as a company, we remain focused on the regulatory process that the U.S. Department of State has been overseeing for more than five years. We continue to remain focused on the final stage of our Presidential Permit review where the fundamental question is going to be if the Keystone XL Pipeline is in America's national interest. We continue to believe that it is."

But Podesta's move to the White House immediately ricocheted around Twitter as an omen of which way Obama's pipeline decision would go. "Can't see this as good for Keystone XL pipeline," wrote David McLaughlin, who led Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy until it was disbanded by the Conservative government.

In fact, the pipeline decision is still up in the air. Podesta surely will be heard in the inner councils to come. But in the end he, like Secretary of State John Kerry, will not own the decision—Obama will.

UPDATE: Late on Tues., Dec. 10, after The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza published comments about Keystone XL that Podesta had made in an earlier interview, a White House aide said Podesta would not take part in its review of the pipeline. "John [Podesta] suggested that he not work on the Keystone Pipeline issue, in review at the State Department, given that the review is far along in the process and John's views on this are well known," the aide said. " [White House Chief of Staff] Denis [McDonough] agreed that was the best course of action." 

Comment space is provided for respectful discourse. Please consult our comment policies for more information. We welcome your participation in civil and constructive discussions.