WASHINGTON – Environmentalists urged government officials to block construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline during a protest Thursday.
More than 30 people,wearing orange T-shirts with the words “Oil Spill Prevention Team” on them,attended the protest,which began with a rally outside of the Canadian Embassy and ended in front of the White House a little more than a mile away.
“We are here with the oil spill prevention team to tell you that this not the right decision. It's a legacy decision for the Obama administration. Don't fail on us this decision,” said Erich Pica,president of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
The pipeline would carry tar sands from Alberta,Canada,to oil refineries in Texas and would go through eight western South Dakota counties. TransCanada would like to begin construction on the pipeline in 2011.
Paul Seamans,a rancher from Draper,S.D.,and a representative of Dakota Rural Action,a grassroots conservation organization,was the only speaker who said his group could support a safe pipeline.
He asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to deny a waiver that would allow TransCanada to build thinner pipelines using less steel in “low consequence” areas such as South Dakota.
“Are the states of Nebraska,South Dakota,North Dakota and Montana to be considered low consequence? No,they are not,” Seamans said.
Seamans,who owns land on the proposed pipeline route,said he isn't opposed to the pipeline,so long as the necessary safety measures are in place.
“We just want to make sure that if it's built,it's built in the safest possible way and that they treat the land owners in the best possible way,” he said. “BP made people more aware of what can happen after a big corporation promises you that nothing's going to happen.”
Seamans was joined at the rally by actress Gloria Reuben,who starred in “E.R.,” and is a board member of the National Wildlife Federation.
Reuben,who was born in Canada,said approving the pipeline would be “heading the wrong direction” for clean energy.
“It was just a few weeks ago when President Obama said in his national address to the American people from the Oval Office,‘The time is now to embrace the clean energy future,now is the moment,'” Reuben said. “We need to hold him to those words. We need to make sure he follows through on that vow,on that pledge to move us forward to the clean energy future.”
The administration's decision on the pipeline is expected in the fall.
Washington's rally was one of several protests against the Keystone pipeline across the nation,including ones in Boston,Detroit,Lincoln,Neb.,and Sioux City,S.D.