The Common Good

When the White House Calls to Say, "OK, You Win."

It didn’t take long — after news broke this afternoon that President Obama had indefinitely kyboshed the climate-killer Keystone XL pipeline — for my phone to ring.

Rose Marie Berger (left with blue stole) shortly before her arrest during an ant
Rose Marie Berger (left with blue stole) shortly before her arrest during an anti-Keystone protest at the White House in August.

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“Hi Rose, I’m calling from White House on behalf of President Obama," the voice on the other end of the line said. "We wanted to makes sure you’d seen the president’s executive order postponing the permitting of the pipeline until another environmental impact report can be done, especially focusing on sensitive environmental issues in Nebraska.

"And we want to thank you for your good work on this issue. We’re just reaching out to let you know that the President hears you and we hope you’ll continue to help us focus on the really critical issues that are facing us right now.”

This afternoon President Obama made an official announcement on the Keystone XL Pipeline that so many of you have been working on these last several months. He said in part,

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood. … . The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.”

Wow!

What started as an issue among First Nations folks on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, expanded to the American Midwest where churches, farmers, and environmentalists were warning of corporate shenanigans that could poison the Ogallala aquifer (“America’s well”), and has become an international issue with more than 650,000 people signing petitions to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, has now shifted a United States president and his administration away from their earlier stated intentions.

Developing the Canadian tar sands to extract unconventional petroleum has been a disastrous proposal from the very beginning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that Canadian tar sands carbon emissions are “82 percent greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.”

This pipeline is a climate killer. It is morally right for President Obama to delay this decision until he can deny the permit.

We must remain vigilant to make sure powerful corporate interests don’t merely drive the decision-making process underground. We can also thank the President, the State Department, and especially the Environmental Protection Agency for truly acting on our national interest by giving more deliberate scrutiny to this particular pipeline, tar sands development, and push them continue shifting our nation toward renewable fuels and energy and the “clean jobs” needed to take us forward.

This is a great win. Who are the winners? Poor people who are most critically affected by climate change. Midwest farmers who must protect their land and our water supply. Indigenous communities who lives are threatened by tar sands development.

Who are the biggest “winners”?

People of faith.

Our earth is a prayer that we offer back in praise of our Creator. Let us dance and celebrate and praise God for God’s guiding presence — and keep a watchful eye those who would lead us down the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Rose Marie Berger, a Sojourners contributing editor, was an organizer for the Tar Sands religious witness. Learn more about the pipeline at www.tarsandsaction.com.

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