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World Keystone opponents reject rumoured Canadian offer to cut emissions

Some 15,000 pieces of pipe for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline lie in a field in North Dakota, April 23, 2013. The Gascoyne pipe yard holds 350 kilometres of pipe, nearly a third of Keystone XL’s route from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Neb.

Nathan VanderKlippe/the globe and mail

Canada's purported offer to cut emissions as part of a deal to get President Barack Obama to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has been denounced by a coalition of groups seeking to thwart the project.

"We oppose any deal-making in return for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline," the groups said in a letter to President Obama – who is expected to decide the project's fate early next year. "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," read the letter, signed by leaders of 25 environmental groups.

Claiming to represent "millions of members and supporters nationwide," the letter was signed by an array of groups, including Greenpeace, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Bold Nebraska and 350.org.

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The letter follows reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote last month to the President proposing joint continental action on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions – mainly from burning fossil fuels – blamed for climate change.

Canadian officials denied that a deal had been offered, but the Harper government has been pushing hard to win an approval for Keystone XL, the long-delayed pipeline that would give Albert's vast oil sands a route to world market prices and thus spur further development.

In a separate letter to Mr. Obama, also delivered Tuesday, the Sierra Club warned that the President's progress on curbing emissions by clamping down on coal-fired generating plants "may be undermined by a backdoor bilateral agreement on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would commit us to transporting the dirtiest of fossil fuels for decades to come."

The $5.3-billion pipeline would funnel millions barrels of oil-sands crude from Alberta across the central United States to massive refinery complexes on the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

In the letter, delivered Monday, the coalition of groups rejected Canadian oil-sands sector claims that it was reducing emissions per barrel produced. "In fact the absolute carbon pollution from the tar sands is rapidly increasing," it said, pointing to overall production increases.

"The only way to reduce emissions from the tar sands is to cap expansion where it is now and reduce production over the coming years."

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