Last Night’s Anti-Keystone XL Rally at White House

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.

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[Originally published Feb. 4, 2014]

Rose speaking with media at anti-Keystone XL rally in front of White House on February 3, 2014. (Linda Swanson)
Rose speaking with media at anti-Keystone XL rally in front of White House on February 3, 2014. (Linda Swanson)

“As Christians we are required to place the poor at the center of our social and political life. The awful reality we face is that climate change kills and displaces poor Americans and the poor around the world FIRST.

What the recent State Department report has made more clear is that tar sands oil to be carried in the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada is a huge carbon polluter. The State Department did better incorporate climate impacts into this version, but they don’t acknowledge that the amount is significant, or that it takes our country down the wrong energy path.

Sojourners particularly works with evangelical Christians, who know that, as Psalm 24 says, The earth is the Lord’s, and we are to be careful stewards of God’s earth and the ‘least of these’ who would be harmed by this pipeline’s pollution.”–Rose Marie Berger

Video: ‘Chemical Corridors’ Expand with America’s Pipeline Explosion

Analysis by Richard Stover, Ph.D., and the Center for Biological Diversity:

A new analysis of oil and gas pipeline safety in the United States reveals a troubling history of spills, contamination, injuries and deaths.

The-Tower-of-Babel-Detail-the-visit-of-the-lord-1110x632
The Tower of Babel, Bruegel the Elder

This time-lapse video shows pipeline incidents from 1986 to 2013, relying on publicly available data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Only incidents classified as “significant” by the agency are shown in the video. “Significant” incidents include those in which someone was hospitalized or killed, damages amounted to more than $50,000, more than 5 barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of other liquid were released, or where the liquid exploded or burned.

According to the data, since 1986 there have been nearly 8,000 incidents (nearly 300 per year on average), resulting in more than 500 deaths (red dots on the video), more than 2,300 injuries (yellow dots on the video), and nearly $7 billion in damage.

Since 1986 pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.

Obama Throws Down Climate Gauntlet

gauntletPresident Obama today gave a speech that marks a turning point in U.S. energy policy and the foundation for comprehensive climate change policy. He also, unexpectedly, addressed directly the question of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“… We can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. That’s not possible. I put forward and passed an “all of the above” energy strategy, but that strategy can’t just be about producing more oil.

By the way it, it certainly must be about more than just building one pipeline. Now, I know there’s been for example a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build the pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal, that’s how it’s always been done.

But I do want to be clear, allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. …”–President Obama, during climate address today at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in The Washington Post, “The president realizes that you can’t combat climate change without a direct confrontation with the fossil fuel industry. What has us most encouraged by the president’s speech is he is lacing up his gloves and getting ready for that fight.”

“Not only is this by far the most comprehensive and ambitious administrative plan proposed by any president, it’s also common sense and very popular with the public,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

President Obama’s comments on the Keystone XL are not substantially different from what he has said in the past. They key quote is: “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

So far, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the net effects of the pipeline’s impact will significantly increase carbon pollution. The State Departments reports have indicated that there will be no net increase (using data provided to them by TransCanada, which presumably has a vested interest in the data). One crucial issue will be naming the new head of the EPA. Will a new director mean a different outcome on the Keystone climate impact?

But it is startling that President Obama brought Keystone up at all, when he wasn’t expected to. As I say, everyday without the Keystone is another day of victory.

It’s important to keep all of this in perspective. The U.S. economy must become largely fossil-fuel independent by 2050. All of the things President Obama announced are steps in that direction. Most are modest steps. Some might turn out to be large steps.

But everything we do from now on out must pass the climate litmus test: Does this decision take us closer to fossil-fuel independence? If yes, okay. If no, then don’t do it–and don’t waste time arguing about it. For Christians this kind of conversion is familiar. We keep our eyes on the prize. When we fall down, we get back up through God’s grace. We can be the ones to model Spirit-powered change for our nation and our world.–Rose Mare Berger

Feb. 17 (It’s a Sunday. It’s a Holiday. It’s the Largest Climate Change Event in U.S. History.)

In the fall of 2011, during two weeks of public demonstrations at the White House in Washington, D.C., 1,252 Americans ended up in jail, the largest and most sustained protest of its kind in decades. They had one purpose: that President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline. (See #NOKXL)

Why? Not because they hate oil companies. Not because they don’t want people to have good construction jobs. For one reason only: It will push us off the climate change cliff, from which there is no manageable or inexpensive way back.

During 2012 the fight to stop the Keystone XL went local. Everywhere along its route in both Canada and the U.S., citizens have been praying, blockading, chaining themselves to earth-moving equipment, sitting in trees, fasting. In other words, doing everything they can think of along the route to stop the pipeline. (See Tar Sands Blockade.)

Now it’s 2013. Hurricane Sandy provided a tipping point in the American conscience on just how disruptive climate change is going to be. It’s not just a climate disruption; it’s a climate eruption.

Now is the time to come back to Washington, D.C.

There will be at least 15,000 people on the National Mall on February 17, 2013, to demand that the President take clear and effective leadership to address climate change and start by nixing the Keystone pipeline project. If we take him at his word from his second inaugural address, then he’s willing … if there is enough public pressure.

I invite you to turn that 15,000 into 15,000 + 1. Find out more.

[If you still have questions about whether the Keystone XL pipeline is a worthy target or if opening up bitumen tar reserves in Alberta is any different than any other kind of oil drilling, the read the most recent article from Scientific American “How Much Will Tar Sands Oil Add to Global Warming?”. It’ll set you straight and answer all your questions in detail.]

Keystone Pipeline and the ‘Social Cost of Carbon’

Randy Thompson, Merrick County, Nebraska, is leading the charge against this dirty oil pipeline.

Starting today in Washington, D.C., “we, the people” will raise our citizen voices against TransCanada/Cononco Keystone XL pipeline project. People will sit in front of the gates of the White House to bring attention to this issue. The Park Police will slap plastic handcuffs on them and keep them under custody for the day. Then, more than likely, fine ’em and let ’em go.

Somewhere between the brilliant chaos of Nebraska farmers, Jewish rabbis, office workers, Catholic priests and nuns, people hell-bent on saving the world, retirees, indigenous leaders, bright-eyed youth, the “temporarily unemployed,” and hundreds of other regular folks risking arrest on the White House sidewalk and the stunningly powerful government-speak of the EPA’s comment on just how bad this pipeline is I find a refreshing mix that is democracy.

“Moreover, recognizing the proposed Project’s life time is expected to be at least fifty years, we believe it is important to be clear that under at least one scenario, the extra GHG [green house gas] emissions associated with this proposed Proje ct may range from 600 million to 1.15 billion tons CO2-e, assuming the lifecycle analysis holds over time (and using the SDEIS’ [State Departments Environmental Impact Statement] quantitative estimates as a basis). In addition, we recommend that the Final EIS explore other means to characterize the impact of the GHG emissions, including an estimate of the “social cost of carbon” associated with potential increases of GHG emissions.

The social cost of carbon includes, but is not limited to, climate damages due to changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from flood risk, and ecosystem services due to climate change. Federal agencies use the social cost of carbon to incorporate the social benefits of reducing CO2 emissions into analyses of regulatory actions that have a marginal impact on cumulative global emissions; the social cost of carbon is also used to calculate the negative impacts of regulatory actions that increase CO2 emissions.”–Cynthia Giles, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (letter 6 June 2011)

Nebraska Farmer: No Pipeline On My Land

I’m risking arrest on Aug. 29 as part of a movement to stop a dirty oil pipeline from ripping through the American heartland and our national water aquifer. Friends of the Earth has interviewed folks along the pipeline route who are fighting back.

“Ernie Fellows is a 65-year-old retired rancher living in Mills, Nebraska, a remote community that sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer along the South Dakota border. Fellows has spent his entire adult life raising livestock and tending to the land he inherited from his family. His grandfather bought the ranch in 1937, and when Ernie came of age, he was charged with taking over. “I took that to mean that I need to be a good steward of the land,” Ernie reflects, recounting the years of careful work he put into improving the ranch. However, the fruits of Fellows’ labor are under threat.

TransCanada, a Canadian oil corporation, is planning to route the Keystone XL pipeline through his property. The pipeline would carry the dirtiest oil available to the U.S. from Canada’s tar sands and bring with it the threat of contaminated water supplies and damage to property and nearby livestock. Complications have also arisen with insurance companies and lenders due to the risks the pipeline poses, making it more difficult for landowners to make ends meet.”

Read an interview with Ernie Fellows.

Sign a petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Find out more about the Tar Sands Action sit-ins and resistance.