Keystone XL pipeline concerns resurrected, protesters call on Obama to reject project
Published Sunday, November 18, 2012 6:02PM MST Last Updated Sunday, November 18, 2012 6:28PM MST
Thousands of environmentalists marched outside the White House on Sunday, armed with banners and signs, chanting and voicing their opposition against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The rally, organized by a group called 350.org, calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to show his commitment to the environment by rejecting the pipeline project, which would run almost 2,000 kilometres from Alberta to Texas.
“It’s the most important battle right now and I guess you can sort of see by the coalition of people who are starting to come together,” said protester Creek Iversen, who was one of about 3,000 environmentalists who gathered in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
“The tar sands are one of the worst things that are happening on our planet,” said protester Sophie Don-Pineo.
“There are so many reasons why this dirty, nasty snake should not be coming through our lands,” another protester said.
“It’s time to stop and really think about the evolution of the species and really think about where we’re going and how we can protect our species.”
Daniel Kessler with 350.org told CTV News on Sunday that the White House rally was one of a number of stops on a tour across the U.S., talking about climate change and environmental concerns.
“We broke 17,000 temperature records around the globe this year. What we’re seeing is really extreme weather and really extreme temperature. “We’re seeing what the scientists are predicting around climate change,” Kessler said.
“The pipeline would lead to huge amounts of emissions and make the situation worse.”
A TransCanada spokesperson told CTV News that he wasn’t surprised by the protest, but says activists are just denying Americans much-needed jobs, taking away money from communities through taxes and investment, and leaving the country’s energy security exposed.
“They’re forcing American refiners to rely on oil from the Middle East and other areas of the world that are hostile to American values and interests,” spokesperson Shawn Howard said.
The $5.3 billion project that would carry 700,000 barrels of bitumen daily, would create 9,000 jobs during construction.
Although protesters agree the jobs are needed, they think there’s a better way to get them.
“We need to create a sustainable economy that can feed us and feed our planet in ways that are going to be productive,” Kessler said.
“Dangerous projects like the Keystone pipeline are not the direction that we want to be going.”
But TransCanada maintains the pipeline would be one of the most modern and safest in North America.
“Even the United States regulator who oversees pipelines indicated that with the construction, the design and all the safety measures and other conditions that we voluntary agreed to, the Keystone XL would operate at a level of safety that's far higher than any other pipeline that's in operation today,” Howard said.
He adds that it will be years before demand for fossil fuels decreases.
“You can’t just pretend that you can turn off the oil switch today and that it’s not going to cause a massive disruption to our way of life,” he said.
Because the project crosses the international border, the Calgary-based company must obtain presidential approval before moving forward.
TransCanada submitted another permit application last May, after working with Nebraska officials to develop a new route, redirecting the pipeline around Nebraska’s Sandhills, the portion of the line that Obama had expressed environmental concerns over.
With the newly re-elected president settling in, both environmentalists and business advocates are hoping to keep the president’s attention on the Keystone file.
Sunday wasn’t the first time the group has rallied outside the White House and it also won’t be the last.
Organizers plan to return to the White House on President’s Day in February, with 20,000 protesters opposed to the project.
Meanwhile TransCanada says a decision on the project will likely happen in the new year, and the company believes the project will be approved.
“The rest of the route is actually approved already with the exception of about a hundred-mile section in Nebraska, so we continue to believe that this will be approved,” Howard said.
If approved, the company wants to start construction immediately and have the pipeline in operation by the end of 2014.
With files from Amanda Anderson and CTVNews.ca