Activists Hit the Streets, Face Possible Arrest, to Protest Keystone XL Pipeline

Anti-Keystone protestors in Washington DC in November 2011. Photo by tarsandaction / CC BY 2.0


Just one day after the President’s call to action on climate change, today environmentalists are gathering outside the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline—a project that supports what climatologist James Hanson calls “one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet.”

“Tonight, President Obama set the lowest possible bar for action—he did not pledge to stop the carbon-spewing Keystone XL Pipeline nor promise carbon regulations on existing power plants,” Forecast the Facts director Daniel Souweine said in a statement. “In fact, he pledged no specific actions at all.”

The pipeline would transport synthetic crude oil and bitumen from Alberta’s Tar Sands across several America states to refineries on Texas Gulf Coast for export. Environmentalists like Friends of the Earth say that the pipeline’s construction could cause ecosystem upheaval, and potential water pollution. It would also double imports of tar sands oil into the United States, the organization says, and would perpetuate dependency on fossil fuels as it gets exported from the Gulf Coast to international ports.

Obama has flip-flopped on the issue, first rejecting a permit for the pipeline in January 2012, but then promising in March 2012 to “cut the red tape” on the pipeline’s southern segment from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

In light of Obama’s hesitance to address the pipeline in his speech, Grist writes:


The single most high-profile thing Obama could do to signal that he’s serious about climate change would be to reject a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. He neglected to mention that issue in his speech, and his administration keeps kicking the can down the road.


The ongoing pipeline saga is what activists are gathering to protest today. One prominent grouping that will be present is the Sierra Club, represented by their executive director Michael Brune.

Suggesting that the protest could lead to an arrest, the Washington Post reports:


Executive director Michael Brune would be the first Sierra Club leader to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club’s board of directors approved civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history as a way to oppose the pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas.


Jeremy Grantham, an outspoken climate activist, and prominent co-founder and chief investment strategist at investment management firm GMO LLC, has also decided to join the Sierra Club stand-off, CNN’s Fortune reports.

“Last year, we had the hottest summer in history and Manhattan floods,” he told CNN Fortune:


It is becoming clear this is a man-made problem and it is serious. We can't afford to burn tar sands, or our goose will be cooked. What we are trying to do is buy time, buy time for the world to wake up. If that means months or years of delaying new pipelines, then all the better.


Activists will also be meeting on Sunday February 17 in Washington DC to protest the lack of action on the Keystone XL Pipeline deal.

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