WASHINGTON – Protesters reminded President Barack Obama of his promise to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline bill while Congress is rushing to approve it.
“We’d like the president to lead for once,” Jamie Henn,communications director for 350.org,said.
Protest organizers said they expected about a dozen protesters would show up,but more than 40 arrived Tuesday for the protest in front of the White House. Signs ranged from professionally designed posters reading “No KXL” with Obama’s campaign logo. Others arrived with homemade cardboard signs.
Oil company TransCanada wants to construct the pipeline to transport 40 different kinds of oil,including tar sand oil,through Montana,South Dakota and Nebraska. The pipeline would then connect with an existing pipeline that ends at the Gulf Coast. Since the pipeline crosses an international border,TransCanada needs a presidential permit to begin construction. Obama promised last week to veto bill,saying the decision is his and not Congress’.
Activists from 350.org,CREDO,Rainforest Action Network,Indigenous Environmental Network,Oil Change International and the Sierra Club gathered to give to White House officials a petition with more than 500,000 signatures from people who are against the pipeline. Henn said organizations gathered the signatures in a few days. While organizers waited to hand the petition to White House staff,Greg Grey Cloud,a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and co-founder of Wica Agli,sang and beat a drum. Wica Agli refers to Lakota men protecting the tribe’s women and children.
Grey Cloud said he could not speak for all the tribes of South Dakota,but if the bill passes his organization would “gear our men and train them how to protect our women and children from outsider’s violences coming into our communities.”
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the U.S. imports more than 7 million barrels of oil each day.
“We build projects like this based on need,” Howard said.
Howard said two-thirds of Americans support the construction of the pipeline.
Caroline Heald,64,a retired artist from Rixeyville,Va.,has been protesting the pipeline since it was proposed in 2008. Police arrested her in 2011 for protesting in front of the White House. She said she wants legislation for clean energy sources.
“It just seems like so much destruction for the sake of making a little more money,” Heald said.
Many organizations have protested the route’s proximity to the Nebraskan Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada adjusted the route to avoid both,but environmental groups say it is not far enough.
The groups also focus on the danger of tar sand oil. Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Associate Luisa Abbott Galvao said this kind of oil releases three times more greenhouse gas than oil.
TransCanada is required to submit a plan for leaks,and Howard said it has taken 59 additional safety measures to ensure the pipeline is safe.
“No other pipeline has been built to the standard of this pipeline,” Howard said.
The State Department has released several studies on the environmental effects of the Keystone XL Pipeline saying it will have little environmental effect.
Protesters also planned to protest at the State Department and Dulles Town Center in Virginia and elsewhere around the country.
The process to construct this pipeline is now reaching seven years,but Howard said TransCanada will have to wait and see if President Obama vetoes the bill.
“We’re going to continue to press on as long as our customers fight for it,” Howard said.
Reach reporter Tori Knueven at [email protected] or 202-408-1492. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.