Feds meet with enviro groups as Keystone decision nears

WASHINGTON — As the State Department readies its final review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, environmentalists on Monday stepped up their fight against the project.

Representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, League of Conservation Voters and Voices for Progress outlined their concerns in a late Monday morning meeting with Kerri-Ann Jones, the assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

The closed-door meeting came as the State Department puts the finishing touches on its final supplemental environmental impact statement, following the release of a March draft that concluded that the amount of carbon emissions tied to oil sands development in Canada is unlikely to change much, even if Keystone XL is never built.

The emissions question is critical because President Barack Obama in June declared that he would only approve the $5.4 billion pipeline “if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Debating Keystone’s effect

The State Department’s draft environmental analysis assumed that trains, trucks and other pipelines would end up transporting Alberta’s diluted bitumen to the U.S. and other markets anyway, so it calculated that Keystone XL would be responsible for adding just 0.83 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually — a figure far lower than critics have predicted.

Because the oil sands extraction process typically involves steam or open-pit mining, it is particularly energy-intensive, and environmentalists say the result is a crude-like product with a particularly high carbon price tag. Oil industry leaders say the diluted bitumen flowing from the oil sands is no more carbon-intensive than crudes from Venezuela and other countries that it would displace.

Moving forward: Oil begins flowing through Keystone XL’s southern leg

In Monday’s meeting, environmentalists asked the State Department officials to revise the March analysis and agree with their conclusion that Keystone XL is the linchpin to unlocking the development of Alberta, Canada’s oil sands.

Keystone XL will “enable tar sands expansion . . . and lead to that significant increase in carbon pollution and fail the president’s climate test,” said Danielle Droitsch, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Canada Project, who was in the meeting.

“The State Department can’t afford to ignore this information to make sure they have a fair and balanced report,” Droitsch said. “It is critical that the State Department take this information and integrate it into the actual analysis, because it has very specific bearing on the key question of climate.”

Alternate routes

Recently, some oil industry leaders have publicly discounted the importance of Keystone XL, insisting that the surge in trucks and trains transporting crude from North Dakota and Alberta means the pipeline is no longer as critical as it was when TransCanada Corp. first proposed it more than six years ago.

But environmentalists in Monday’s meeting pointed to a slew of recent reports from industry representatives and analysts that suggest otherwise. For instance, in September, RBC analysts said that a Keystone XL rejection likely would at least temporarily slow some oil sands growth. The environmentalists also cited commentary from Goldman Sachs and projections from the International Energy Agency, which ties a predicted doubling in oil sands production to sufficient pipeline capacity.

“The financial community itself has acknowledged that tar-sands-by-rail is a niche industry,” Droitsch said. “It’s not a replacement for pipelines.”

Keystone XL is expected to transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day (100,000 from the Bakken shale formation), which is several times what is currently coming on rail cars from Canada.

But the Canadian Energy Research Institute predicted in May that about 700,000 barrels per day of new rail capacity is expected to come online by 2016.

Keystone XL supporters stress that with or without the pipeline, Canadian oil sands will make their way to the marketplace.

“Today, increasing volumes of oil produced in Canadian and U.S. oil fields are getting to market using rail, trucks and barges – and that will continue regardless of the outcome of the Keystone XL presidential permit,” said TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard.

“The facts are that Keystone XL will provide Americans with sources of Canadian and U.S. oil that are needed in Gulf Coast refineries to create products we rely on every day, that it will help push out sources of oil from places like Venezuela and the Middle East — regions that are often hostile to America’s interests and values — and it will get oil to key delivery points using the safest method of transportation,” Howard added.

The environmental groups also urged the State Department to look closely at the U.S. energy supply-demand picture when deciding whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. Keystone XL critics say a decline in U.S. oil demand plus the amount of light, sweet crude flowing to Gulf Coast refineries from American fields means the border-crossing pipeline is not needed.

The State Department was inundated with about 1.2 million public comments filed in response to its draft study, and had to review them as it developed a final environmental impact statement.

Pipeline delays: TransCanada pushes Keystone XL pipeline start to 2016

Industry representatives and other stakeholders are buzzing that the final environmental review could be issued soon, possibly before the end of the year.

While that is the most significant milestone before the State Department’s determination whether the proposed border-crossing pipeline is in the “national interest,” there are many more steps before a final decision to issue or deny a presidential permit to the project:

Environmentalists in Monday’s meeting pressed the State Department to hold at least one more public hearing before making a national interest determination.

TransCanada’s Howard noted that the project has been scrutinized for more than five years in a process that has generated “more than 15,000 pages of detailed, technical and scientific reviews.”

“There have been more than 100 public meetings on this project, it has been reviewed by about two dozen government agencies – every aspect has been commented on and studied,” Howard said. “We have a great deal of respect for the regulatory process that we are involved in, and look forward to this process coming to a conclusion.”

Although the 875-mile northern leg of the project is on hold during the government review, TransCanada’s southern “Gulf Coast project” reportedly began shipping oil on Monday.


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Keystone XL protesters arrested in downtown Houston (video)

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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance (CIA), a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, ride horses past the U.S. Capitol during a prote
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Native Americans from various tribes work together to erect a large tepee as part of a demonstration against the proposed
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Tom Genung from Nebraska, and a member of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance sets up camp on the Mall in Washington, D.C. as a protest of the proposed con
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A coalition of Native American groups and cattle ranchers -- the Cowboy and Indian Alliance -- take a horseback ride around the Mall in Washington, D.
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders hold signs during a protest against the Keystone XL pip
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders hold signs during a protest against the Keystone XL pip
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Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, perform on the National Mall during a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline by the Cowboy and
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A "Reject and Protect" sign hangs at an encampment set up by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance (CIA), a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leader
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance (CIA), a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, march outside the U.S. Capitol during a protest
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Gianna Strong, 19, of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe in Morton, Minnesota, pours water into the Reflecting Pool in front of the U.S. Capitol during a tra
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance (CIA), a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, march during a protest against the Keystone XL p
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers and ranchers from across the United States,
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: (L-R) Farhad Ebrahimi of Boston, Virgina Leavell of the District of Columbia and David Turnbull of San Francisco scoop hor
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers and ranchers from across the United States,
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation (L) shakes hands with Piscataway Indian Nation Chief Billy Redwing Tayac during a tradition
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Native Americans from various tribes work to erect a large tepee as part of a demonstration against the proposed Keystone
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers and ranchers from across the United States,
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: (L-R) Samantha Jones (L) of the Sicangu Lakota Band of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe from Rosebud, South Dakota and Brandie Moli
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Shane Red Hawk of the Sicangu Lakota Band of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe from Rosebud, South Dakota, joins other members of th
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native American tribal leaders and non-native farmers and ranchers fr
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native American tribal leaders and non-native farmers and ranchers fr
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Shane Red Hawk (R) of the Sicangu Lakota Band of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe from Rosebud, South Dakota, joins other members o
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers and ranchers from across the United States,
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native American tribal leaders and non-native farmers and ranchers fr
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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: Bryan Brewer (R), president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota walks up to Indian teepees that are on the National
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Paula-May Belous, left, and her husband Michael Belous, both from Brisbane, Australia, pose in the door of a teepee on the National Mall in Wash
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Matt Buban, right, and Ben Thompson, both from from Charles Town, W.Va., with One Heart One Mind, set up teepee poles on the National Mall in Wa
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A coalition of Native American groups and cattle ranchers -- the Cowboy and Indian Alliance -- take a horseback ride around the Mall in Washington, D.
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A coalition of Native American groups and cattle ranchers -- the Cowboy and Indian Alliance -- take a horseback ride around the Mall in Washington, D.
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Native Americans, farmers and ranchers hold a ceremony in front of the US Capitol in Washington on April 22, 2014 as the Cowboy and Indian Alliance pr
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance hold signs in front of the US Capitol in Washington on April 22, 2014 as they protest the proposed Keystone
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Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance march in Washington on April 22, 2014 as they protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, part of "Reject and
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TOPSHOTSA Native American tribal leader sits on his horse in front of the US Capitol in Washington on April 22, 2014 as the Cowboy and Indian Allian
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Demonstrators protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 2014.
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A huge crop art image protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipline covers an 80-acre cornfield outside of Neligh, Neb. Farmer Art Tanderup, who owns th
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Police scuffle with protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, as they block a door to t
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Police scuffle with protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, as they block a door to t
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Police scuffle with protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, as they block a door to t
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Protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, wait to be detained for blocking a door to a
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Protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, block the door to the federal building in Phi
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Police detain a protester demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, outside the Federal Building i
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Police detain a protester demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, outside the Federal Building i
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Police detain protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, outside the Federal Building in
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A man tries, in blue, to get past protesters demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, in front of
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Protesters demonstrated in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Monday, March 10, 2014, outside the Federal Building in Philadelphia.
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Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside
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Alex Smiley, from left, and Katy Hellman, who are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, chant during a protest against the proposed Keyston
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People protest against the XL Pipeline outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Protestors are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, during a protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sunday, March 2, 2014.
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Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline tied themselves to th
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Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline tied themselves to th
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Protestors who are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, chant during a protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sunday, Marc
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Demonstrators who are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, chant during a protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sunday, M
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Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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A sign reading "Stop the Transcanada Pipeline" stands in a field near Bradshaw, Neb. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will run through this field. I
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Crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline near County Road 363 and County Road 357, east of Winona, Texas. In a move that di
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Atkinson, Neb., rancher Bruce Boettcher, who opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, kicks up sand on his land, to demonstrate the fragility of the sand hil
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of TransCanada
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protestors perform civil disobedience by chanting and holding signs while criminally trespassing Sept. 16, 2013 in Houston in front of the TransCa
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Protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in downtown Houston on Monday, September 16, 2013. (Zain Shauk/Houston Chronicle)
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Protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in downtown Houston on Monday, September 16, 2013. (Zain Shauk/Houston Chronicle)
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Police line up near the intersection of Texas Avenue and Milam Street, where protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline were arrested while demonstra
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Protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in downtown Houston on Monday, September 16, 2013.
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About 200 activists stage a sit-in outside the US State Department in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in an attempt to maintain pressure on Pre
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About 200 activists march on the US State Department in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline August 12, 2013, at the US Department of State in Washi
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An activist holds up a sign during a sit-in and protest against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the U.S. State Department August 12, 2013 in Washingt
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An activist holds a sign as he participates in a sit-in and protest against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the U.S. State Department August 12, 2013
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Activists stage a sit-in and protest against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the U.S. State Department August 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Activists f
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Activists stage a sit-in and protest against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the U.S. State Department August 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Activists f
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Activists march to the U.S. State Department to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline August 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Activists from the Rainfor
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Protesters against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline including Cat Bell (middle) wait for the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden visiting for a fund
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Stephen Malagodi holds a sign expressing his opinion about the proposed Keystone pipeline during a climate change rally on August 9, 2013 in Miami, Fl
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Protesters zig zag their way up to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday June 20, 2013. National Nurses United and environmental
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John Hauf of Fairfax, (center) joins hundreds of protesters as they make their way across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday
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Hundreds of protesters make their way up to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday June 20, 2013. National Nurses United and envi
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HUndreds of protesters make their way across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday June 20, 2013. National Nurses United and env
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Hundreds of protesters make their way across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday June 20, 2013. National Nurses United and env
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Protesters against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline including Molly Helfend (left) wait for the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden visiting for a f
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Protesters against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline wait for the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden visiting for a fundraiser in San Francisco , Ca
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Protesters against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline including Laura Waters (middle, left) and Christy Hurlburt (middle, right) wait for the arrival
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A protester prepares for a pre-march rally as protesters gathered to make their way across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday
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Gail Graham of Stinson Beach joined hundreds of protesters for a pre-march rally as the prepared to cross the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Cal
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A mock oil pipeline is carried during a Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline demonstration near the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, No
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Scores of Keystone XL Pipeline protesters, led by the Tar Sands Blockade, protested oustide one of TransCanada's Houston offices.
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Michael Bishop poses Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, with a pair of flags flying in protest of the planned Keystone XL pipeline, near the entrance to his prop
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Eddy Radillo of Yantis, sings and holds a Texas flag and a sign opposing the Transcanada Keystone Pipeline on Feb. 17, 2012 outside of the Lamar Count
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A member of the Tar Sands Blockade is arrested after protesting in front of a Houston building, in the 2700 block of Post Oak Blvd., where TransCanada
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A protester identified as Peter Graham displays a banner from the flagpole at the downtown offices of LyondellBasell, opposing a refinery expansion th
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Perry Graham is arrested for trespassing after climbing a flag pole at LyondellBasell tower to protest a pipeline through Tar Springs.
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Protesters, costumed as a papier-mache dragon, march near Houston's Galleria mall to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline.
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Protesters distributed a flier to shoppers and other passers by detailing their arguments against the Keystone XL pipeline.
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A member of the Tar Sands Blockade addresses police in front of a Houston building where a TransCanada office is located.
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Members of the Tar Sands Blockade are arrested after protesting in front of a building containing an office for TransCanada, owner of the controversia
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Members of the Tar Sands Blockade protest TransCanada and its controversial Keystone XL Pipeline near one of the company's offices on Post Oak Bouleva
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Police stand in front of an office building in the 2700 block of Post Oak Blvd., whose lobby protesters occupied to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline.
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Protestors sit in the lobby of a building in the 2700 block of Post Oak Blvd., containing an office for Transcanada, owner of the Keystone XL Pipeline
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Protestors sit in the lobby of a Houston building containing offices for TransCanada, owner of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Photo: Tar Sands Blockade
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Eight people climbed 80 feet into trees in the path of Keystone XL construction, and pledged not to come down until the pipeline is stopped for good.
Photo: AP
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On Sept. 11, 2011, demonstrators for and against the Keystone XL pipeline gathered near the state Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., as public hearings took pl
Photo: Bloomberg
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Demonstrators hold signs next to the Treasury building during a Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Nov.
Photo: AP
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Actress Daryl Hannah is arrested outside the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, as prominent environmental leaders tied themselves t
Photo: Abaca Press
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Activists engage in civil disobedience Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at the White House in Washington, D.C., in hopes of pressuring President Barack Ob
Photo: Abaca Press
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Activists engage in civil disobedience Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at the White House in Washington, D.C., in hopes of pressuring President Barack Ob
Photo: AP
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Thousands of protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
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A demonstrator dressed as an oil-soaked bird in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington D.C. on November 6, 2011.
Photo: San Francisco Chronicle
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Protestors gathered in San Francisco on Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 to voice their opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline during a visit by President Ob
Photo: San Francisco Chronicle
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A protestor briefly climbed a tree as he and others gathered at the intersection of Divisadero and Broadway. Protestors gathered in San Francisco, CA
Photo: AP
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Protestors against the Keystone XL pipeline dressed as referees throw red penalty flags during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Barack