Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are taking a well-deserved victory lap. The Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada’s pipeline proposal -- at least for now -- represents an historic win for the environmental movement, and reveals the potency of the emerging alignment between the environmental, anti-corporate, Occupy, and other movements.
Real strides were also made to bridge the divide between environmental groups and unions. While Republicans relentlessly attacked environmentalists as “job killers,” groups like 350.org, Sierra Club, and NRDC reached out to unions early and often, and as a result, six labor unions came out in support of President Obama's decision to oppose the permit. Not since the “Battle in Seattle” have we seen such diverse and robust coalitions.
But the Keystone campaign also exposed the perennial Achilles' heel of those who are fighting against climate change: We are often painted by our opponents and perceived by the public as caring more about the environment than about jobs. In a press release titled “U.S. Chamber Calls Politically-Charged Decision to Deny Keystone a Job Killer,” the Chamber of Commerce said President Obama’s denial of the KXL permit was “sacrificing tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs in the short term, and many more than that in the long term.” And its messaging worked, with the media repeating the jobs vs. environment frame again and again. NPR’s headline was typical of many: "Pipeline Decision Pits Jobs Against Environment."