Converging in front of the White House. Photo by Zakee Kuduro, EAC."The power is not in that building. It's out here, it’s us!"
Standing in front of the White House, Michigan activist Chris Wahmhoff represented the cumulative voice of over one thousand youth who had converged in Washington, D.C. nearly two weeks ago.
Those thousand plus stood in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), a massive project that if approved would carry over 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Climatologist James Hansen has repeatedly described the project as, “the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” Running from Oklahoma to Texas, the southern leg of the pipeline, otherwise known as the Gulf Coast Project, went live earlier last month and has already begun transporting crude oil to Texas refineries. Completion of the northern section would give TransCanada, the company responsible for the project, direct access to an enormous field of Canadian oil sands. However, as that piece of the line crosses international borders, President Obama has the power to either approve or deny the permit for construction.
As one of the world’s dirtiest oils, extracting, exporting, and burning tar sands would result in a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions – one which our planet, under even the most conservative scientific estimates, cannot afford. From rising sea levels to the threat of stronger storms, the Gulf is ground zero for many of the impacts that could result.
Captain Planet and others at mock oil spill. Zakee Kuduro, EAC.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for KXL was released at the end of January and has proved to be frustratingly invalid, claiming that the pipeline will have no significant environmental impact. The public comment period for the FEIS ended just a week ago, giving the State Department at least fifty more days to weigh in on whether or not KXL is in our national interest, followed by a final decision by the President.
In traveling to the capital, the public had hoped to send a clear message to President Obama: We the people elected you as President of the United States and we the people demand that you reject KXL. The fight against this pipeline has become more than simply a fight against further fossil fuel extraction -- it has become an issue of political and moral obligation. President Obama has an opportunity to either approve the northern leg of KXL and steer us down a path of climate destruction, or get serious about combating climate change and make a strong break towards a clean, sustainable future.
Marching from Georgetown University to downtown D.C., activists made a quick stop at Secretary of State John Kerry’s home, staging a mock oil spill to remind him of the dangers of increased tar sands expansion. On reaching the White House, 398 individuals proceeded to risk arrest, some zip tying themselves to the White House fence while others staged a second mock spill.
As a reminder of the 2010 BP oil disaster, environmentalist Captain Planet made an appearance, holding on to one of Gulf Restoration Network’s signs: “The oil is still here… And so are we.”
Anna Dvorak is GRN's Outreach Team Manager.