Indigenous activists and environmentalists hailed President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday November 6, calling it a victory for Mother Earth and a step toward shutting down the Alberta oil sands entirely.
“In the fight against Keystone XL our efforts as indigenous peoples, whether Lakota, Dakota, Assiniboine, Ponca, Cree, Dene or other, has always been in the defense of Mother Earth and the sacredness of the water,” said Tom Goldtooth, head of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. “Today, with this decision, we feel those efforts have been validated. With the rejection of Keystone XL we have not only protected the sacredness of the land and water but have also helped our Cree & Dene relatives at the source take one step closer to shutting down the tar sands. The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated, and best believe we will dance to our victory!”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Liberal who was sworn in on Tuesday November 4, expressed his disappointment. But unlike his predecessor, Conservative Stephen Harper, Trudeau said the rejection would not harm relations between the two countries. Although Trudeau had supported the oil sands project, he has also pledged to take a stronger stand on climate change than Harper did.
“We are disappointed by the decision but respect the right of the United States to make the decision,” Trudeau said in a statement. “The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.”
Environmentalists invoked Indigenous Peoples in their praise of Obama’s move, in which he deemed the project to be not in the national interest.
“The pipeline’s rejection marks a historic victory for farmers, ranchers, tribal nations and the unlikely alliance that formed to fight this uphill, six-year battle that no one believed we’d ever win,” said Bold Nebraska, a group formed specifically to spearhead Keystone XL resistance in that state, in a media release.
Others called it a step in the right direction to combat climate change.
“This represents a courageous leap forward in the climate fight,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in a statement. “Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is right for our nation, for our children and for our planet. It would have locked in, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels on the planet—posing a serious threat to our air, land water, and climate. The proposal, pushed largely by the fossil fuel industry, was a recipe for disaster. In no way was the pipeline in America’s national interest.”
Further, his move should inspire others, Suh said.
“Dangerous climate change is the central environmental challenge of our time, and it’s time for everyone to step up now and meet that challenge,” Suh said.
Those sentiments were echoed by the Sierra Club, whose executive director, Michael Brune, also expressed relief and hope.
“Today President Obama said yes to clean energy and public health, and no to dirty oil and dangerous pollution,” Brune said in a statement. “Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the planet, for the health and well-being of the communities along the pipeline route, and for future generations to come. It also demonstrates the power of the millions of people who raised their voices in opposition to the pipeline, and of the growing movement to end our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, too, acknowledged the numerous voices and strong opposition that went into defeating the proposal.
“This is a historic moment, not just for what it means about avoiding the impacts of this disastrous pipeline but for all of those who spoke out for a healthy, livable climate and energy policies that put people and wildlife ahead of pollution and profits,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a media release. “President Obama did the right thing, but he didn’t do it alone: Millions of Americans made their voices heard on this issue, and will continue pressing Obama and other political leaders to do what’s necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.”