10,000 Keystone XL pipeline protesters circle White House

About 10,000 opponents of a proposed pipeline for carrying oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast surrounded the White House on Sunday — exactly a year before the 2012 election — seeking to pressure President Barack Obama to reject the project.

If approved, the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, to be built by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., would carry crude from the tar sands region in Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas, passing through six states.

Supporters such as oil industry groups and some labor unions say the pipeline would reduce U.S. reliance on oil from the volatile Mideast and create 20,000 jobs in a U.S. economy that desperately needs the boost.

Environmental groups despise the project and call it a needlessly risky method of producing dirty energy. They say the pipeline could leak, endangering drinking water. They say extracting the thick crude from tar sands is itself a greenhouse-gas producing, wasteful process. And they say the promise of jobs is a false one, claiming it would produce only about 6,000 temporary jobs.

On Sunday, the protesters heard speeches from faith leaders and environmental activists before making a circle around the White House that organizers estimated was three rows deep.

“This is a turnaround,” John Adams, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview. “We’ve been in the dark ages for the last year, with the change in the Congress. Now we’ve just come out and we put on this demonstration … so this is a big change, a big change.”

Anger is guaranteed

The Keystone decision poses a political dilemma for Obama, with an approaching election that likely will hinge on the economy. He will inevitably anger one of his constituencies – either the unions supporting the project or environmentalists and others opposing it.

The Obama administration must issue a permit to approve Keystone because it would cross the U.S.-Canada border. Though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she’s “inclined” to approve the project, the final verdict rests with Obama, who recently said he will wait until after the State Department finishes its review of the proposal.

Obama was playing golf Sunday, and the White House did not issue a statement on the protest.

Environmentalists were furious when Obama gave up on cap-and-trade climate legislation after Republicans blocked a bill in 2010. He upset them even more after deciding in September to shelve tougher ozone standards until 2013.

They have warned they won’t support Obama in 2012 as enthusiastically as they did in 2008, and some Democratic contributors have said they could hold back campaign donations if he approves the project.

“We’re going to work to make sure that Americans across the country … have a voice, and that the president will stand up with us,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club. “We’ll stand behind him when he rejects this pipeline.”

No arrests this time

Present were some Democrats who protested outside an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco on Oct. 25, including Susie Tompkins Buell, a founder of apparel company Esprit Holdings and a prominent Democratic donor. “The president is listening … and he should,” she said.

More than 1,200 pipeline opponents have been arrested in White House protests since August. Police were on hand Sunday, but Sgt. David Schlosser, National Park Service police spokesman, said he wasn’t aware of any arrests.

Former Texas state Rep. Joseph Nixon, R-Houston, visiting Washington on a business trip, ridiculed the protesters: “It’s absolutely hilarious that they’re protesting a pipeline bringing a needed petroleum product into the states for refining, where we refine cleaner, better than anyone else in the world.”

12 Comments

  1. ntangle

    In a way, I admire their political fervor. But they’re so misguided. If one could wave a magic wand and remove the politics from this needlessly protracted decision-making process, it would be a no-brainer. It’s clearly in the US national security interests as well as its economic interests to build this line now. (Not that the two categories are all that distinct).

    One point that the protestors make is valid…about most of the jobs being temporary. Once the pipeline is built, it doesn’t take very many folks to operate and maintain it. Gulf Coast refineries will run their volumes, whether the heavy sour crude comes from Hugo or the Canucks, eh. The rest are overblown, such as the risk to aquifers (as if there aren’t already pipelines across them) Or the naïve view that the US can or should impose its will on Canada, a sovereign country, for what it does with its own resources.

    #1
  2. meetwoodflac

    Jimmy Carter’s DOE,created 30 years and a trillion dollars ago, was charged with lessening our dependence on foreign (Mid-East) oil. Here’s a great way for O’bama to ditch his worst prez ever title and give it back to Carter. Who is likely to funnel more money his way, unions or greenies? I think we know that answer.

    #2
  3. William

    All jobs are temporary, except in the Government.

    #3
  4. Joe

    Fine, stop the pipeline, then let them walk everywhere they want
    to go. They sure as heck will not be able to afford the “Green Machines” that run on batteries, or hydrogen etc…..
    And while they are walking, they can carry a stick with a nail in it and pick up all the trash they are leaving behind.
    Oh, and take a bath too!

    #4
  5. MaynardGKrebbs

    This project has already been studied,studied again and then studied again. Bit why bother ? The enviro wacko’s will protest and then sue lose,sue some more . Watch as the projects tries to get started. This is why AMERICA can’t get anything done.This is one reason manufacturing has left AMERICA.

    #5
  6. bg

    I thought Halloween was last week? —oh apparently not for the marginally employed non-profit DC area staff protesters.

    #6
  7. Mike from Houston

    The environmentalists (i.e. useful idiots) think that if Canada can’t sell the oil to the United States then Canada will abandon the project. Right . . . Canada will just run the pipeline over to the west coast and sell it to China.

    #7
  8. John

    I am against it because a significant portion of the pipeline has so far been constructed using cheap pipe from India. Irregulare wall thickness, out of round sections, out of spec welds = leaks, leaks, leaks.

    #8
  9. James T Wilson

    It is amazing about these protesters. How did they get to Washington to protest? I hope they walked, otherwise, they used a oil based product to get to Washihngton DC. LOL!!!

    #9
  10. David Gower

    A counter protest could locate all the protesters vehicles and siphon all the gas out of them!

    #10
  11. Had the industry not left such a dark footprint behind in places where they were not monitored as strictly as in the US (happy to get away with environmental infractions that would not be tolerated without EPA penalties ) and shown their desire to snow those who live on the BP-impacted coast and see the impact every day of the toxins pumped and sprayed onto them and into the Gulf waters (still affectingtheir livelihoods and health)– not to mention hearing horror stories from those impacted by pipeline breaches), there would be no one protesting. BUT they are protesting with reason and many with first-hand experience of how there ARE problems. It seems that those who work in the ivory offices and make decisions for those who put their lives on the line to make a buck and innocents who should not bear the burden of bad policy and cover-ups (learned from some who may have broken their oaths of silence or told just how bad things are on some of these rigs), these oil advocates are all too happy to wear blinders and cover their ears and say … “oh, those protesters are so stupid to stand in the way of ‘progress.’” Keep playing dumb. You want to pay for your feathered bed with our children’s future and that of the planet? We will never see eye-to-eye with those who put profits over safety and wisdom.

    #11
  12. Mike

    Shame on the unions for not insisting on CLEAN jobs. Yes we need jobs. but they should be ongoing jobs in the renewable sector.
    Germany is installing more solar in a month than we do in a year. Do we want to sit on our hands while other nations prepare for the future wisely? I don’t think so.

    #12