I've got to admit: I really didn't think Obama would do it. But he did, and I rejoiced.
He rejected, for now at least, the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported "tar sands" oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining. Most of it would have been shipped to other countries.
Republicans and some Democrats screamed that his decision stymied job creation and prevented easy importation of oil from a friendly neighbor. And this, after all, is an election year.
But in spite of pressures, Obama rejected the proposal because there was not enough time for a proper environmental assessment. Obama doesn't talk about it enough, but he cares about the planet. He knows that climate change is real and that greenhouse gases are responsible for most of it. Tar sands oil is much dirtier than regular oil and would emit far more greenhouse gases in the refining process.
So great is the Tar Sands threat to the environment that more than 1,000 people were arrested at the White House this past summer protesting this project. Many Catholic social justice activists were among them.
At one August protest that included a number of religious leaders, Rose Marie Berger, a Catholic organizing for Sojourners, said simply, "Climate change hurts the poor first." She was joined by members of religious orders and clergy of many faiths.
Jobs are better created by building renewable energy resources, like wind farms and solar panels.
But the Republican House forced a decision by Obama by Feb. 21 rather than letting him wait until he received the results of a thorough environmental assessment. The Republican House thought it put Obama in a "hard place" politically -- between those who want job creation and the environmental community. He put the needs of the planet ahead of oil interests and ahead of those who run around trying to deny the reality of climate change.
Among many responses to the decision, Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of the Franciscan Action Network, said: "We applaud the administration for standing up to the narrow corporate big oil interests and doing the right thing for America. This is a moral victory that advances the cause of justice, respect for life and the common good of God's creation. As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we call on all people of good will to work even harder in advocating for government policies that would protect our environment, the poor and the future generations and, at the same time, invest in creating hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs."