A new anti-Keystone XL coalition launched on Monday with a simple message: There's no benefit to Americans, only grave risks, from the controversial plan to ship Alberta's oil-sands crude across the U.S. heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The profits would go to Canada, the oil would be exported, and Americans would suffer the spills, claims the "All Risk, No Reward," campaign, which will target Democrats who back the pipeline in an all-out effort to persuade President Barack Obama to reject it later this year.
The coalition, already running television ads, brings together an odd mix of national and state-based groups ranging from rural landowners along the proposed route of the pipeline, such as the Nebraska Farmers Union, to the League of Women Voters.
"We are really explaining how this pipeline is not in our national interest, and letting other organizations handle the climate message," said Randy Thompson, a Nebraska cattleman and chair of the coalition. "We are very focused on our message, are going to be aggressive to get it out there, and have paid media efforts that have never been part of the anti-KXL movement," he said.
Already an array of big, well-heeled environmental groups like the Sierra Club have mounted major campaigns against Keystone XL, but the emergence of a coalition of grassroots groups after a spill of Alberta oil-sands crude fouled the Arkansas town of Mayflower could broaden the battle.
At a news conference on Monday, coalition organizers said they intended to use the claims of Keystone advocates to stir up opposition. "According to proponents, the environmental destruction of tar-sands drilling should be of no concern to Americans; after all, the oil will be mined in Canada," said New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt, one of the strongest advocates of weaning the United States off fossil fuels. "Further, proponents claim, Americans should not fret about increased dependence upon fossil fuels, as the Keystone XL pipeline would carry those fuels to sea ports for distribution overseas."
For Americans, Keystone XL brings no benefit, just risk, he added: "Why would we want to expose thousands of towns up and down the United States to the same risks faced so catastrophically in Mayflower," where the cleanup of an oil-sands spill from a pipeline with one-10th the capacity is still under way.
The group says it has hundreds of thousands of dollars for targeted advertising and more money on the way, although it declined to identify major donors.
One of its first ads paints the pipeline as a black scar across the United States and says Keystone XL would create only 35 permanent jobs while "tar sands" oil is exported to countries like China and Venezuela.
Backers of the $5-billion project say it would create thousands of jobs and create a reliable and secure source of oil.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford will wade into the increasingly murky debate again on Tuesday when she makes another foray to Capitol Hill seeking support for the pipeline.
The Premier's Office declined to provide a full list of legislators she plans to lobby, saying only that Ms. Redford will meet members of Congress on both sides of the issue during her two-day visit.
Among those she is expected to call on is California Republican Kevin McCarthy, whose role as majority whip in the House of Representatives may be crucial if a threatened congressional effort to wrest control of the Keystone decision from Mr. Obama emerges.
Mr. McCarthy, an unabashed Keystone XL backer, echoes Prime Minister Stephen Harper in suggesting that the choice should be obvious. "Yet after 4 1/2 years, the President still can't make a decision. … This should be a no-brainer," the congressman said last month.
Yet the Alberta government apparently is concerned that the outcome is not such a slam dunk. According to Bloomberg, the province has hired a Washington lobbying firm, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc., and the Boston-based public relations firm Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc. Both have strong political connections and both were engaged to help Alberta push the Keystone project.