WASHINGTON — More than a dozen celebrities are lending their star power to the battle against Keystone XL.
The singers, filmmakers and actors — including “Revenge” star Emily VanCamp and Dawn Oliveri of “House of Lies” — lay out arguments against the pipeline in a video produced for the Sierra Club and the Environmental Media Association.
Most of the nearly two-minute spot focuses on the process of extracting bitumen from Alberta, Canada’s oil sands, because the pipeline would transport that hydrocarbon across the U.S. border, giving it a new route to a Midwest oil hub and Gulf Coast refineries.
Some companies use steam-assisted techniques to liquefy the dense bitumen while it is still underground, enabling it to be more easily separated from sand and withdrawn. But decades of more traditional open-pit mining of bitumen have left massive, toxic tailings ponds in once-forested Canadian lands.
In the Sierra Club video, celebrities grimace and shudder as images of those tailings ponds, mines and refineries float across the screen. Oliveri wipes a tear from her eye. “That’s in Canada?” asks VanCamp, before letting out a groan.
“Chewing through 34 football fields of pristine forest every day; that’s the tar sands,” says Malin Akerman, a Swedish-Canadian actress.
“Enough toxic sludge to cover Central Park 11 times a month,” says Frances Fisher, of ABC’s “Resurrection.”
“A disaster for the climate; that’s the tar sands,” adds filmmaker Bryn Mooser.
The video ends with an on-screen message to President Barack Obama: “It’s time to reject Keystone XL once and for all.”
The production comes just days after Obama vetoed legislation that would authorize Keystone XL’s construction, circumventing a long-running State Department analysis of whether the $8 billion pipeline is in the national interest.
Read more: Obama vetoes Keystone XL bill
Environmentalists who oppose the project — and say it would unleash oil sands development in Canada — want Obama to go further and reject the project outright.
But supporters of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline say Canadian crude will find its way to market with or without Keystone XL. Already, trains are carrying it to refineries across North America, and other pipelines have been proposed to send it to Canadian coasts. Though they face significant opposition, the proposals are a sign of the big market demand for moving oil sands crude.
Much of the heavy Canadian crude slated to flow through Keystone XL would be refined inside the United States, displacing crude that is now imported from Mexico and Venezuela, according to a new report.
Read more: Most Keystone crude will stay in U.S.
Canadian oil producers have worked to counter the claims in the new Sierra Club video — including allegations that the oil sands have a bigger carbon footprint than other crudes. Comparable heavy crudes — like those it would replace in U.S. refineries — have a similar carbon intensity, the American Petroleum Institute and others have argued.
Oil sands production is increasingly using non-mining methods to extract bitumen, and companies point to their research on better managing the tailings that are a mining by-product, as well as their efforts to reclaim and replant past tailings ponds as evidence of their environmental commitment.
Calgary-based TransCanada first proposed the project to U.S. regulators in 2008. It went little noticed by environmentalists for several years, before NASA scientist James Hansen’s 2011 prediction that approving Keystone XL would be “game over” for the climate.
It has since become a touchstone in the broader fight over climate change, inspiring demonstrations at the White House and rallies nationwide. And the new Sierra Club video is far from the first time that celebrities have been involved in the fight. Canadian musician Neil Young has used performances to raise awareness. “Splash” star Daryl Hannah was arrested in 2012 after standing in the path of heavy equipment used to build a southern leg of Keystone through Texas.