Mass demonstrations welcomed President Obama to the Bay Area on Wednesday and sent him a clear message on the Keystone XL Pipeline: Just Say No!
More than 1,000 protesters greeted him when he arrived in San Francisco's well-heeled Pacific Heights neighborhood at the home of Tom Speyer, former hedge fund manager turned environmental campaigner to host a $5,000-per-person cocktail hour followed by a $32,500-per-plate dinner fundraiser at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Organized by CREDO Action in conjunction with environmental organizations such as 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Idle No More, Rising Tide SF, and the Sierra Club, and other groups, the demonstration was part of a rising national movement that plans to dog the president and keep pressure on him not to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The protest forms part of a rising national movement that plans to dog the president and keep pressure on him not to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“The climate crisis should confront President Obama anywhere he goes,” says Rose Braz, campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
In February, more than 40,000 persons rallied in Washington, D.C., to urge the President to vote against the new 875-mile long pipeline, which would transport oil from the U.S.-Canadian border through Montana and South Dakota to connect with an existing pipeline near Steele City, Nebraska, for onward delivery to refineries in Texas. It would run over the Ogallala Aquifer, which extends from South Dakota to northern Texas and provides fresh drinking water to millions in the Midwest. The pipeline would also threaten endangered area wildlife, including western prairie fringed orchids. whooping cranes, piping plovers, Arkansas River shiners, pallid sturgeon, American burrowing beetles and woodland caribou.
On March 19, the U.S. Senate voted 62-37 to pass the pipeline. But the vote is largely symbolic. The fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline lies with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have ultimate say in its future.
Last Friday, the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, and has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a "major spill," dumped vast quantities of oil in neighborhoods and made clear the risks associated with a tar sands pipeline.
“This latest toxic mess is just another reminder that oil companies cannot be trusted to transport toxic tar sands crude through Americans' backyards, farmlands and watersheds,” said Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club. “It's not a matter of if spills will occur on dangerous pipelines like the Keystone XL, but rather, when -- and at what cost to Americans."
As Emma Pullman at DeSmogBlog lays out in an infographic, the Keystone XL Pipeline predicted it would leak once every seven years. Yet since it began operation in June 2010, it has leaked 14 times.
“We are here to urge President Obama to cancel this project,” Ross Hammond, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner with the group’s climate and energy program, said. “There has been so much propaganda about this pipeline, that it is going to lead to U.S. oil independence and create all these jobs. But the State Department itself thinks it will create only 35 permanent jobs. It is going to unlock an enormous carbon bomb."
As Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, told me, "the President needs to constantly be reminded that Americans, unlike oil executives, are ready to back him if he'll be the first world leader to say no to a big project on climate grounds."
CREDO recently launched a call to activists to pledge to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience if President Obama moves forward with a plan to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Over 53,000 people have signed the pledge.
350.org is calling for people to take action and to submit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released on March 1, 2013.
A public meeting is also scheduled for Thursday, April 18, 12:00 - 3:30 pm and 4:00 - 8:00 pm at the Heartland Events Center, 700 East Stolley Park Road, Grand Island, Nebraska.
The State Department is accepting public comments on the new proposal until April 22: http://act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/ and also http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/.
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who covers energy policy, climate negotiations and related direct actions. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, The Nation, The Progressive and The Washington Monthly.