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04/08/2013

Obama insider joins fight against Alberta oilsands

A former Obama administration insider is ratcheting up the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, citing the recent spill of Alberta crude in Arkansas as fresh evidence the project must be halted.

Bill Burton, who served as White House deputy press secretary during Barack Obama’s first term, also pushed back at perceptions the White House is poised to approve the controversial Canadian pipeline, saying the president’s final decision will be based upon “facts, not perception.”

“There is a strong and growing movement here … people from all 50 states are engaged in this fight like never before,” Burton told reporters Monday on a conference call to launch All Risk No Reward, a new coalition aimed at cancelling the proposed TransCanada Corp. project.

Asked about the widely held perception the White House ultimately will approve the project as a boost to jobs and infrastructure, Burton said, “I don’t think anybody is backed into any position at all.

“This is an ongoing process and it sits with the State Department right now and then it will sit with the White House. And I think the facts are going to influence the process much more than perception. … And we’re going to do what we can to have an impact on it.”

Burton’s All Risk, No Reward group debuted Sunday with an aggressive ad campaign linking Keystone XL to the recent spill of Alberta crude through a suburban neighbourhood in Mayflower, Ark.

The proposed Canadian pipeline, the ad says, “doesn’t go to the U.S., it goes through the U.S. – sending oil to places like China and Venezuela, putting us at risk while Big Oil gets the reward. Connect the dots, it’s a pretty ugly picture.”

Burton, who now serves as senior adviser to the League of Conservation Voters, told reporters the new anti-pipeline coalition is expanding the ad campaign in dozen markets targeting Obama’s Democratic base.

The new campaign comes amid a rising frenzy of lobbying in Washington, including the arrival of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who began a three-day blitz of lawmakers and U.S. media to argue the merits of the pipeline.

Redford is expected to talk up her government’s climate change strategy review, including a possible substantial hike to its existing $15/tonne levy on large greenhouse gas emitters.

Her Washington itinerary includes a Tuesday afternoon appearance to be webcast live by the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings.

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites 

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