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Sonoma wades into Keystone XL pipeline debate



The Sonoma City Council, which two weeks ago took a controversial stand in support of an embattled oyster company in Marin County, is diving head first

Sonoma Plaza (PD FILE, 2004)

Sonoma Plaza (PD FILE, 2004)

again into a national debate that extends well outside city limits.

Mayor Ken Brown will seek council support Monday to send an official letter to President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking them to deny permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would convey oil products from Canada southward to the Gulf of Mexico.

Brown’s draft letter states that the 2,000-mile pipeline represents a potential threat to “pristine wildland areas” and could have a “devastating effect on the global climate” from increased carbon dioxide emissions.

“I think it’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” Brown said Friday.

Brown two weeks ago gained unanimous council support for a resolution backing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its legal battle to continue operating in a federally protected wetland in Marin County.

Environmental groups that were angered by that decision now accuse Brown of hypocrisy with his stance against the pipeline. Councilman Steve Barbose, who agreed to co-sponsor putting the mayor’s proposed letter on Monday’s agenda, did not return a message Friday seeking comment.

“If the reason they’re supporting these resolutions is to protect the environment, they failed with the oyster resolution,” said Neal Desai with the National Parks Conservation Association. “It sets a bad policy precedent for national parks, and facilitates the kind of environmental degradation they’re concerned with with the Keystone project.”

Under the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 proposed by Congressional Republicans, permits for the Keystone XL pipeline would be expedited, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would be opened to gas and oil development and the oyster company’s lease would be extended for at least 10 years.

Desai said the legislation is an attempt to circumvent policies governing commercial uses in national parks and in protected wildland areas.

“That is exactly why an oyster permit extension is in a massive energy bill. Oysters don’t produce energy,” Desai said.

Brown, however, said he had not considered whether he was advocating contradictory positions with regard to the oyster company and oil pipeline.

“I’m not a complicated person,” he said.

Two weeks ago, he and council members mainly cited the oyster company as a producer of locally sourced food and as a jobs creator in their support of the resolution backing the company.

Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for 350.org, an environmental group focused on climate concerns, said Friday he considers the oyster company and pipeline to be separate issues.

He said it is “wonderful” that Sonoma is considering taking a stand against the pipeline, calling it an example of “real leadership at the local level.”

Some on the Sonoma council have not favored the city tackling such issues, including Councilman David Cook, who at the June 3 meeting said he came around to supporting the oyster company resolution only after he was convinced it represented a local issue.

Brown on Friday said he considers such issues to be part of the council’s “job” in a city he called a “bedrock of democracy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

On Twitter @deadlinederek.

4 Responses to “Sonoma wades into Keystone XL pipeline debate”

  1. Dick Tracy says:

    Google “US pipeline map,” or some such. You will find that the US is already honeycombed with gas and oil pipelines. The opposition to Keystone is just the Big Oil cats with Mideast connections trying to shut down the competition. Remember: Canadian oil does not require blood to obtain…

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  2. Steveguy says:

    Who do they think they are ? The new Sebastapol ?

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  3. Reality Check says:

    It’s always entertaining to see hypocrisy on display.

    About 75% of California’s in-state oil production comes from Kern County. Its oil is heavy. Heavy oil requires additional refining before it can be used as gasoline, diesel, etc. This refining is not carbon neutral.

    If California really wanted to clean up its act it would stop using this oil. Of course the alternatives would likely come from half-way around the world or from deep-water wells that also require additional energy.

    These are all serious choices for a city that goes to considerable length to attract tourists, almost all of who arrive by automobile, and apparently wants to do nothing more than make a superficial political statement.

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  4. James Bennett says:

    Interesting that we’ve been indoctrinated to the notion that we must equate domestic oil production with either:
    a) Fracking.
    b) Off shore drilling.
    c) This pipeline.
    d) Spreading “Democracy” throughout the arab world.
    c) Damaging oil sand processing.

    We have a glut of oil in North America. Especially in the N. West.

    This way they can substantiate high prices.

    This way they can create a devide between the environmentalists and pro-business/common sense folks.

    The Powers That Be (TPTB) love to devide us and create ‘problems’ with ‘solutions’ that serve them.

    The pipeline is not needed.

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