Updated at 4:40 p.m. Friday
Mayor Art Madrid has joined 102 other U.S. mayors opposing a Canada-to-Texas pipeline expected to cost $7 billion, signing a letter to President Barack Obama critical of the so-called Keystone XL project.
Noting the BP oil spill of 2010, Madrid told La Mesa Patch: “We already had one disaster—the deepwater drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico. There, too, all safety precautions were guaranteed; the rest is history. If we didn't learn from that disastrous event, we’re doomed to repeat it again.”
State Department officials last week called a timeout on the project, saying they would use the pause to find a route for the pipeline away from Nebraska’s Sand Hills.
The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group behind the letter dated Nov. 16, said:
“The mayors’ letter demonstrates the widespread support that exists in communities across the country for rejecting the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It also underscores the importance of carrying out a new, in-depth review of the project that includes a careful look at the project’s impact on our nation’s climate change goals.”
The group said the mayors thank Obama for the new review, “but remain convinced that a full, fair review can yield only one answer: This pipeline is not in the nation’s best interest.”
The letter was signed by mayors from 28 states, including 10 state capitals, representing a combined population of more than 9 million people, said the group.
Madrid was the only San Diego County mayor to sign the letter—along with the mayors of 24 other California cities, including Sacramento, Berkeley, Santa Monica and Pasadena.
Madrid said he received a request to sign the letter at his City Hall office, and put his name to this one as he has to others, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ climate change letter.
“As a member of the National League of Cities’ Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I have been monitoring this proposed project for some time,” he said Friday afternoon via email.
“I brought it up for discussion in our committee meeting and they supported my resolution, so when the request came from other mayors to sign the letter, I fully understood their fear and concern.”
He noted the pipeline’s proposed path “through very sensitive habitat, pristine aquifers and other environmental irreplaceable areas.”
Most worrisome to him was its proximity to the famous New Madrid earthquake fault line, named for the monster earthquakes of 1811-12 centered in Missouri that changed the flow of the Mississippi River.
“The potential for disaster when another massive earthquake occurs will cause untold damage,” Madrid said. “This fault line issue, in my opinion, has not been appropriately addressed.”
Madrid said he didn’t consult the council before signing the letter “because I don't have to! Each individual council member can write, on their own behalf, a letter of support, or oppose, any cause they deem worthy or unworthy.”
He noted that the entire council knows how he feels about environmental issues.
“While it may not be their cup of tea,” he said, “I choose to get engaged when appropriate.”
The mayors' letter says: “Expansion of high carbon fuels such as tar sands undermine hard work by local communities everywhere to fight climate change, reduce dependence on oil, and create a clean energy future.”
In a blog post Wednesday, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “Mayors are at the frontlines of reducing our dependence on oil and have been working to create a more efficient system because they take climate change seriously.”
The letter (attached) “asks for a comprehensive review of the greenhouse gas impacts from this high carbon project, and a general evaluation of how the project will affect local community efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, ratchet down carbon emissions and fight climate change,” Casey-Lefkowitz said.
A Washington Post blog post noted the odd bedfellows nature of the opposition:
President Obama’s decision to delay a final ruling on the “tar sands” pipeline from Canada to Texas has been cheered by environmentalists as a rare victory—and it is. But it’s also a rare product of a coalition between conservationists and conservatives in red states.
Environmentalists oppose the project because of the energy-intensive, pollution-creating oil extraction. Conservatives and tea party activists are worried about the use of eminent domain, or the government’s ability to take private property, to build a pipeline for a foreign company. And both sides are concerned about oil leaking into aquifers that supply Texas and the Plains states.
TransCanada, the force behind the proposed 1,661-mile pipeline, reportedly had planned to begin construction in January 2012.
Earlier this month, an estimated 10,000 people staged a Sunday protest outside the White House calling on Obama to reject the pipeline.
Madrid apparently signed the letter without consulting the City Council. No reference to Keystone XL appears in any recent council agenda. But Madrid is active in several mayors groups, including the National League of Cities.
Madrid also has served on the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Committee.
Madrid helped launch the city’s Environmental Sustainability Commission about three years ago.
“Art has served as chair of the San Diego Association of Governments, SANDAG,” says his city of La Mesa biography. “He also serves on state board of the League of California Cities and was president of the San Diego Division of the league. He has served as president of the California Council of Governments, CALCOG, which represents all 478 cities and 58 counties in the state.”