WASHINGTON – With a decision looming on the Keystone XL pipeline, President Barack Obama is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser hosted by a prominent pipeline opponent.
The president will speak Friday at a fundraiser in California hosted by the so-called green billionaire Tom Steyer, who has promoted and donated heavily to anti-pipeline campaigns.
The White House played down any connection between the event and the president’s eventual decision on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, when asked whether Obama had discussed Keystone with Steyer.
“No. I’m not aware of any discussions they’ve had on that particular issue,” Josh Earnest replied during a White House briefing Wednesday.
“Mr. Steyer is a well-known advocate for policies that are good for the environment. Particularly policies that will limit carbon pollution, and other contributors to climate change. And obviously the president has a historically strong record in confronting these issues.”
It’s not the first time Obama has appeared at a Steyer-hosted event.
Steyer held a fundraiser at his San Francisco-area home with Obama in 2013. He’s also hosted events featuring Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
At the 2013 event, Obama acknowledged the challenges of climate policy.
“We can do so much more,” Obama said.
But he added: “The politics of this are tough.”
Americans whose jobs are powered by cheap energy might not be able to afford cars like the hybrid Toyota Prius, Obama said, and even if they care about the temperature of the planet it’s probably not their No. 1 concern, compared to keeping a job and feeding the family, he added.
In the two years since then, Obama has introduced a slew of climate-change measures through executive action. However, because those measures can’t get through Congress in actual legislation, they could be cancelled by a future president or challenged at the state level and in the courts.
One thing Obama hasn’t done: announce a Keystone decision. The White House said earlier this year that its administration’s review was almost over, but now it won’t even provide a ballpark estimate for the timing of a decision.
The delay has not only frustrated pipeline supporters — but also opponents eager for a rejection, and a chance to move on from the years-long battle.
If it’s granted a permit to cross the Canada-U.S. border, the pipeline would carry more than one-quarter of all Canadian oil exported to the United States.
In the meantime, the pipeline’s southern U.S. leg is already operational. Oil is being shipped across the border, into the U.S., through other pipelines and by rail.