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- 700-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline
- Bill McKibben
- Climate Change
- Conor Kennedy
- Daryl Hannah
- Evan Vokes
- Inaugural address
- Keystone XL pipeline
- Michael Brune
- President Obama
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
- Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
- Tar Sands
- White House
- civil disobedience
- dirty oil
- flawed welds
- fossil fools
- fossil fuels
- horrific safety record
- tar sands fuel
Prominent environmental leaders, including the head of the Sierra Club, were arrested Wednesday after tying themselves to the White House gate to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The protesters demand that President Barack Obama reject the pipeline, which they say would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming.
Executive Director Michael Brune is the first Sierra Club leader in the group's 120-year history to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club's board of directors approved the action as a sign of their opposition to the $7 billion pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the president of Waterkeeper Alliance, was arrested along with his son, Connor, the 18-year-old ex-boyfriend of singer Taylor Swift. In an emailed statement from his organization, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said "It's unfortunate that civil disobedience is the only recourse against a catastrophic and criminal enterprise that will enrich a few while impoverishing the rest of humanity and threatening the future of civilization."
Along with the Kennedys, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, and actress Daryl Hannah were also arrested. Hannah was previously arrested for separate Keystone pipeline protests in Texas last October and at the White House in August 2011.
McKibben said in a statement from Tar Sands Action, “We really shouldn’t have to be put in handcuffs to stop KXL–our nation’s leading climate scientists have told us it’s dangerous folly, and all the recent Nobel Peace laureates have urged us to set a different kind of example for the world, so the choice should be obvious."
In all, 48 environmental, civil rights, and community leaders from across the country joined together for a historic display of civil disobedience at the White House, where they were arrested on Wednesday after they handcuffed themselves to the fence.
Tar sands pipelines have a horrendous track record: the existing Keystone 1 pipeline leaked twelve times in its first year, and at least thirty times to date. In 2010, the added dangers of tar sands pipelines were demonstrated by Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline spill of over a million gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The Kalamazoo Tar Sands spill is the costliest inland spill in United States history, draining the oil spill coffers and placing the $800 million and rising price tag onto the backs of local and federal taxpayers. But it is not the monetary burden that weighs heaviest; the toll on human life, health and local ecosystems is immeasurable, and in the immediate, the toxicity of the diluted bitumen and undisclosed proprietary chemicals has proven devastating.
Video call to rally: On Sunday, February 17, thousands of Americans will head to Washington, D.C. to make Forward on Climate the largest climate rally in history.
During his inaugural address on January 21, President Obama made a big commitment when he said "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." Now environmentalists expect him to live up to those words by putting a stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, the transcontinental conduit for tar sands fuel from Canada that many scientists say could expedite climate change.
"If he doesn't reject it," said Piedmont attorney Guy Saperstein, a former Sierra Club Foundation president and prominent liberal donor, "then I think it should be all out warfare for the next four years."
Environmentalists are drawing a line in the tar sands with a series of high-profile demonstrations planned this month in Washington.
The timing of the protests is crucial because sometime before April, Obama will receive the State Department's recommendation on whether to green-light the 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline, forcing him to make a decision he delayed during last year's presidential campaign to avoid alienating his liberal base.
Liberals who bided their time through four years of little action from the White House on climate change, and who bit their tongues during the 2012 campaign, expect payback.
The Sierra Club, based in San Francisco, plans to participate in civil disobedience for the first time in its history to call attention to the issue which include a Feb. 17 demonstration on climate change that is expected to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history.
Leading environmentalists say this is Obama's chance to redeem himself to them:
"This is the purest test Obama is ever going to face," said Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist and writer who is helping organize the Feb. 17 demonstration as part of a climate-change awareness organization called 350.org. "He doesn't have to ask John Boehner. He doesn't have to ask Mitch McConnell. He just needs to do it."
During a recent pipeline protest, Ramsey Sprague, a "blockader," disrupted an oil and gas pipeline conference by chaining himself to sound equipment and delivered an impassioned speech to the crowd. Sprague described TransCanada’s horrific safety record, as well as its treatment of indigenous communities and others whose land and lives are being adversely affected by tar sands extraction.
Sprague described shoddy welding practices and dangerous corner-cutting throughout TransCanada's operations as exposed by whistleblowers like Evan Vokes, a metallurgic engineer who came forward in May 2012, leading to an investigation by Canada's National Energy Board. Sprague reminded attendees that TransCanada's first Keystone pipeline has already leaked over 30 times and that other industry leaders such as Enbridge are similarly negligent, with over 800 spills since 1999. He derided TransCanada for routing the KXL pipeline through ecologically sensitive areas and through communities like the one in Douglass, TX, where construction crews are actively laying pipe within sight of the Douglass public school.
Sprague also described how activists who blockaded themselves inside the actual KXL pipe on December 3rd, 2012 could see daylight through holes in welds connecting segments of pipe – and how Tar Sands Blockade has the pictures to prove it. That mile-long section of the pipe was laid in the ground on the same day; no additional welding or inspection occurred after the photos were taken.
The flawed welds inside KXL:
"This is among the first biggest tests of (Obama's) commitment to climate change and his willingness to stand up to the oil industry and their toadies in Congress," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
"The president has not fully put his muscle behind the effort to combat climate change," Brune said. "That's what needs to change more than anything else."