Written by Gregg Brekke
The battle over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline reached a decisive moment Sunday when at least 10,000 people joined hands around the White House on Nov. 6 in an effort organizers hope will "show President Obama he has the support he needs to stand up to Big Oil and stop the pipeline."
In an interview Tuesday, President Obama took full ownership over what has become the most important environmental question facing him before the 2012 election: whether or not to grant the necessary permit for a 1,700 mile pipeline which would carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Protestors were joined by top environmental activists, faith groups and celebrities, including actor Mark Ruffalo, activist Bill McKibben, Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune, Medal of Freedom recipient and NRDC founder John Adams, Nobel Prize recipient Jody Williams, and others.
"People who care about the Earth showed up in large numbers at the White House and surrounded it with a human chain. Not once, not twice, but three times, a chain of hand holding activists went around the President's home," said the Rev. Mari Castellanos, policy advocate for domestic issues in the UCC's Washington, D.C., office. "We will not allow the Earth to be destroyed by greed and an unwillingness to switch to less destructive sources of energy. We’re drawing the line on the tar sands."
President Obama is currently considering whether or not to grant a “presidential permit” for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The project requires the special permit because it crosses an international border with Canada. The Keystone XL line would carry tar sands oil over 1,700 miles across America’s heartland. Activists say the threat of an environmental catastrophe is too great and that it threatens on of the United States' largest sources of fresh drinking water – the 174,000 square-mile Ogallala Aquifer.
John Bolenbaugh, a Keystone employee-turned-pipeline activist came from Michigan to speak out against the pipeline. Having served as a spill cleanup worker for an Enbridge Energy Partners' spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, Bolenbaugh was quoted by The Huffington Post as saying the risks entailed in building another pipeline are just not worth it.
“I’m a union worker, I work for Pipefitters 355 in Battle Creek, Mich., and I will not accept a job for a tar sands pipeline," he said. "I will not do it because I’ve seen the devastation and the sick people from what a tar sands spill does when there is a leak and there’s gonna be a leak. It’s gonna happen sooner or later.”Earlier in August, 1,253 people were arrested during a sit-in at the White House protesting the pipeline. Those arrested included the Rev. Jim Antal, the UCC's Massachusetts Conference Minister, and Castellanos.