People all over the country have been protesting the construction of the Keystone XL Pipleine which would carry dirty sludge from Alberta, Canada to be refined on the Texas coast.
The State Department issued its final environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. If President Obama approves construction of the 875-mile section of this pipeline oil companies could send up to 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast for refining and distribution. The State Department reasoned that, because oil companies will continue to extract the crude whether this pipeline is built or not, the effect of the pipeline itself on climate change would be minimal. Environmental Advocates point out however, that the pipeline will increase demand for oil at a time when we must immediately begin to wean ourselves from it and comes with a variety of environmental risks.
The pipeline would cross six states, several major rivers, the Ogallala aquifer, and the nation’s breadbasket – all potential sites for major disasters like the BP Gulf oil spill. It would also come within a mile of approximately 2500 water wells. A spill from a different pipeline into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in July 2010 has yet to be fully cleaned up. Mining the tar sands requires leveling the boreal forest in western Canada, trampling the homes of native populations, using enormous amounts of water for processing, and the use of natural gas to heat the tar sands just to get the crude to flow.
Approving the Keystone XL pipeline is a moral choice, not just an economic choice.
First, the pipeline will exact an unspeakable toll on the natural environment – God’s gift to the present and the future. To extract the tar sands oil, huge tracts of boreal forests in western Canada are being forever destroyed. On-site processing takes enormous amounts of water and energy to heat this dirty resource to pump it over 2000 miles to Gulf Coast refineries, crossing major rivers, underground aquifers, and breadbasket cropland on the way. After the Exxon Valdez and the Gulf Oil disaster, does anyone still believe the oil companies who claim their methods for drilling and transporting are fool-proof and their remedies for the inevitable spills are sufficient? Why take this chance on condemning the natural environment if we have other viable choices?
Second, exploiting the tar sands is an immoral condemnation of the native peoples of western Canada and all people around the world who will suffer from climate change. Developing the tar sands oil will have an impact far beyond the native Canadians who will suffer first-hand from local air and water pollution. Burning this dirty source of fossil-fuels will clearly hasten climate change, and the simple fact is that those who have done the least environmental harm – the poor and marginalized of our planet – will suffer the greatest impact of climate change with rising seas, droughts, wildfires, and floods. They will become environmental refugees who have the least ability and the fewest resources to cope with change. This is the heart of environmental injustice.
Third, we know that one public policy decision will not solve climate change. But it will set a direction based on moral principles. In 2012, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook starkly warned that the chance to avert catastrophic climate disruption will be forever lost without an immediate shift away from fossil fuel infrastructure investment. The Keystone XL pipeline is an infrastructure development investment with disastrous consequences well into the future, and the first lesson of digging oneself out of a hole is to stop digging. We must turn towards new and renewable solutions that are based on the fundamental human rights of justice, hope for the future, and the care of all persons in the world community.
Your church in Action
Rev. Mari Castellanos is arrested in front of the White House as part of a mass demonstration against the Keystone XL Pipeline. (August 2012)
UCC advocates have been active in protesting the pipeline. Here are a few examples:
February 13,2013 - UCC conference minister arrested as part of pipeline protest The Rev. Jim Antal, the Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC, and a climate activist, was one of dozens of people participating in an act of civil disobedience at the White House. The group was urging President Barack Obama to block a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
October 2012 - The U.S. Department of State held a public comment meeting to solicit comments on the subject. Rev. Mari Castellanos was invited to testify along with other faith leaders. Read her Testimony.