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Activists and environmentalists are viewing this as the first of many victories against fossil fuels. Photo by Alec Salloum

After 2,300 days of deliberation, activists and investors alike have an answer: the proposed $12 billion Keystone XL Pipeline is not being built, for now.

In a letter to the American Senate, explaining why he vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, President Barrack Obama cited concerns over “security, safety, and environment.” This comes in the wake of a 270-152 House of Representatives vote in favour the pipeline and a 62-36 Senate vote for the project.

 

Though first supported and now stalled in the U.S., Canadian interests are still hoping to move forward with the TransCanada pipeline.  "It is not a question of if this project will be approved; it is a matter of when,” said federal natural resource minister Greg Rickford in a public statement.

 

But this is not how Cameron Fenton, an organizer for 350.org, sees it. "Hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in fighting this pipeline,” said Fenton.

 

Fenton and the international environmental organization 350.org have been fighting the pipeline for years.

 

“When it started everyone, including from the industry to then secretary of state Hillary Clinton, thought that Keystone was a done deal, and a movement has risen up around it and changed that story completely,” said Fenton. 350.org has been advocating for sustainable alternatives to oil, especially oil gathered from tar sands.

 

The XL pipeline would connect Albertan tar sand developments to refineries in Texas and Illinois. A study from the Pembina Institute found greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands have increased 2.9 times in the past two decades, making tar sands the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in Canada. Considering that the pipeline would transport and refine 830,000 barrels of oil a day, the environmental impact would be massive.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report stating full producing capacity “per year is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 5.7 million passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal fired power plants. Over the 50-year lifetime of the pipeline, this could translate into releasing as much as 1.37 billion more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."

 

The report, published on Feb.2, has prompted the Canadian government to refute that the pipeline will worsen carbon emissions. However the National Energy Board (NEB) has refused to include consideration of the tar sands in their review of both the Keystone and Energy East pipeline, stating production emissions are outside its regulatory mandate. The NEB is a federal instituion tasked with regulating the safety of Canada's energy ventures.  

 

The pipeline was first proposed in 2008, and since then the Canadian government has spent over $24 million on ads promoting the pipeline. “What if it was spent on solar panels, or how many wind turbines could we have built, how many jobs could we have created instead of lobbying for a pipeline desperately in the United states for the past 2,000 days?” asked Fenton.

 

With the pipeline halted and the NEB still refusing to review tar sand development this respite could be crucial to fighting this pipeline. “Even a rejection of Keystone XL is just the beginning, especially for folks here in Canada fighting projects like Energy East that goes through Saskatchewan and all the way to the east coast of Canada. We’re seeing the first of what we hope to be many victories as we start to turn the tide away from fossil fuels," said Fenton.