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MD lawmaker played role in pipeline delay

MD lawmaker played role in pipeline delay

The Obama administration shored up its support this week in the environmental community by delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which was to carry crude oil from Canada's tar sands region through the US Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

Among those relishing the White House's decision to postpone (and possibly kill) the pipeline is Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat who'd become an outspoken opponent of the project.

Mizeur is one of the leading environmental advocates in the General Assembly. In Annapolis, she's pushed to put the brakes on natural gas drilling in western Maryland using the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique.She ventured well beyond the state to jump into the growing pipeline furor last summer.

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The $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline has been pushed by the oil industry and labor unions hungry for the construction jobs.  But it stirred a firestorm of resistance from environmentalists upset about the impacts in Canada of tar sands oil extraction, and the impact on climate of enabling that much more oil to get consumed. Greens were joined, though, by cattle ranchers and midwestern farmers upset about the line crossing their lands and potentially contaminating their wells and water ways. (Bloomberg Businessweek published a good review of the issues just before the White House put it on hold.)

"I decided it was time to put pressure on the Obama administration from inside the Democratic party," Mizeur said."We are the Democrats who elected him in 2008.  We expected him to listen to us."

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Mizeur had a platform for putting pressure on the White House. She's a member of the Democratic National Committee, which governs the party. She voiced her concerns about the pipeline project at a DNC meeting in August and followed that up by proposing a resolution that the DNC take a formal position against the pipeline.

Some Dems didn't agree with Mizeur's approach, wanting to avoid any appearance of conflict between the party and its standard-bearer.  She countered that by doing so, the DNC could provide "political cover for him to be courageous and do the right thing for the environment."

Last Sunday, when pipeline opponents rallied outside the White House to demonstrate their opposition to the pipeline, Mizeur was one of 10 speakers to address the crowd. And so this week, the Maryland delegate got a call from the administration to let her know the president had decided to extend its review of the project for another year.

Mizeur downplays her role in pressuring the White House, saying "I'm one of many."  But Mike Tidwell of Chesapeake Climate Action Network says he's convinced she helped sway the decision.

(Pipeline protesters at the White House Nov. 6/MCT photo; Del.Heather Mizeur in Annapolis/2011 Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

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