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Ignoring the requests of tens of thousands in the U.S. and Canada — and the demands of a rapidly warming planet — yesterday the U.S. State Department approved the Alberta Clipper dirty oil sands pipeline.

Flying in the face of a growing host of military experts and research showing the contrary, Secretary Clinton decided that Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper dirty oil sands pipeline is in the U.S. national interest.  Presidential Executive Order 11423 allows the Secretary to permit the pipeline ONLY if she judges it’s in the national interest.

The Alberta tar sands is the world’s largest energy project, ultimately covering an area the size of Florida.  And it produces the world’s dirtiest, most expensive, and arguably most dangerous oil.  And if the Alberta Clipper pipeline is actually built, 450,000 more barrels of it, per day, will be burned in the U.S. — releasing five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil.

Although this permit is definitely a setback — both in the fight against dirty oil and for the clean energy economy, the fight is by no means over for the Alberta Clipper or against dirty oil sands.

As Sarah Burt of Earthjustice said, speaking for an international network fighting the expansion  of the oil sands,

The State Department has rubber-stamped a project that will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in the communities near refineries that will process this dirty oil.  The project’s environmental review fails to show how construction of the Alberta Clipper is in the national interest. We will go to court to make sure that all the impacts of this pipeline are considered.

In addition to the lawsuit against the State Department, many of the groups involved also have appealed the U.S. Forest Service over its willingness to allow the pipeline to traverse parts of the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota. Also, a group of tribal members have apparently gathered enough signatures on a petition to hold a referendum on the Leech Lake tribal council’s agreement to allow the line through tribal land.

There is no way to dodge this decision — it clearly contradicts President Obama’s campaign promise to create a clean energy eeconomy. 

Perhaps that’s why they issued the permit as if they had something to hide. Ordinarily when a permit like this is going to be granted, the government publicly announces the Record of Decision two weeks before issuing the permit.  Those two weeks allow for exposure of the decision to the sunlight of public and sister agency review — if it can stand that review, the permit is issued two weeks later.  However, in a move reminiscent of the Bush administration, the State Department hid the Record of Decision from the public — and announced both the ROD and the actual permit yesterday.

On September 16th, President Obama will meet one on one for the second time with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (see results of first meeting).  For the second time, oil sands is likely to be on the agenda.

If President Obama’s clean energy economy promises are not empty, he will stand strong against special deals for tar sands.  No exemptions to climate agreements for tar sands.  No public assumptions that unproven, pie-in-the-sky, Big Oil “carbon capture” fantasies will take care of the global warming dangers.  And no further commitments to dead-end pipeline infrastructure projects that will make true action on reaching climate goals more difficult. Because in the end, you can’t fool your mother.  Mother Nature, that is.

Stay tuned.