The leaders of 25 environmental and climate action groups sent an open letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and avoid any "deal-making" with the Canadian government.
The letter follows a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. report that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered to make emissions reductions in his country's oil and gas sector in exchange for U.S. approval of the Keystone XL.
"Our rationale is simple. Building Keystone XL will expand production in the tar sands, and that reality is not compatible with serious efforts to battle climate change," wrote the leaders of 350.org, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and 22 other organizations.
The proposed pipeline requires State Department approval because it would cross an international border. If approved, the pipeline will carry diluted tar sands bitumen nearly 1,200 miles from Alberta to southeastern Nebraska. A nearly-completed southern segment would carry the crude product to refineries along the U.S. Gulf coast.
"The tar sands pipeline and the carbon emissions it would generate are not in the national interest," the environmental groups wrote.
In his landmark climate change speech in June, Obama declared he would approve the midstream project only if it served the "national interest" by "not significantly [exacerbating] the problem of carbon pollution."
Observers quickly noted that there was some ambiguity in the president's declaration, as it left the door open for offsets similar to what Harper is reportedly offering. An environmental impact statement released by the State Department, whose findings were later criticized by the EPA and the Department of the Interior, concluded that the pipeline won't significantly increase emissions because other methods would be used to transport the oil even if Keystone XL is rejected.
Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver told Reuters earlier this month that a final decision on Keystone XL was unlikely in 2013, but he remained confident it would be approved.