For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Fernando Losada, 510-610.5476, or Charles Idelson, 510-273-2246

Nurses Welcome President’s Commitment to Veto Proposed Bill by New Congress to Green Light Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON - National Nurses United today welcomed the announcement that President Obama will veto legislation by the new Congress pushing forward the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project. The new Congressional majority has said that pushing the pipeline will be a top priority – ignoring the severe consequences for public health and climate change.

“The President’s commitment to veto any pro-Keystone legislation should send a clear message to Congress to stop trying to force through this disastrous project,” said NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, RN.

“That’s the leadership we need from the Administration to protect the health and security of the American people, and we urge the President to take the next step and further announce the U.S. will formally reject approval of the pipeline itself,” said NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, RN.

As NNU said in a statement earlier today, “while the composition of Congress has changed, the facts about Keystone have not.”

“From the extraction, transport and production of tar sands oil to the compelling evidence that the pipeline will accelerate the harmful effects of the climate crisis, the Keystone XL pipeline remains a significant danger to pubic health and safety,” Higgins noted.

“This project is not a jobs bill, it is an unwarranted gift to big oil and the fossil fuel industry that will jeopardize the health of our patients, our communities, and our planet,” Higgins said.

“Tar sands mining pollutants have been linked to cancer, leukemia, genetic damage, and birth defects,” noted Higgins in a statement on Capitol Hill last year.


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“Tar sands pipeline spills in Michigan and Arkansas have beset local residents with cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and respiratory impacts, as well as persistent coughs, headaches, nausea, eye and skin problems.”

“Tar sands refining has been linked to ailments of the nervous and respiratory systems. Dust storms in Chicago and Detroit off piles of petcoke, the byproduct of tar sands refining, have coated homes and areas where children play and raised concerns about heart attacks, decreased lung function, asthma, already at epidemic levels in America, and premature death.”

“This may only be the first glimpse of what is at stake if Keystone is approved.”

Climate experts have also warned that the pipeline would greatly accelerate the process of climate change, which Higgins called a “health catastrophe.”

A recent report on “The Climate Crisis and the Global Threat to Human Health” by the Cornell Global Labor Institute in collaboration with NNU documents the widespread ways in which climate change adversely affects human health.

These include vector-borne diseases, from malaria to Ebola, extreme weather events that lead to death, injuries, toxic contamination, and the spread of infectious diseases and mental health disorders, food shortages and nutrition insecurity linked to droughts and flooding, respiratory and pulmonary diseases linked to wildfires, and heat related strokes.

“The only way to confront climate crisis is to fight it head on. Stopping Keystone is a critical step,” Higgins said.


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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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