Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fighting Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, Sierra Club Engages In First-Ever Civil Disobedience - UPDATED

Amy Goodman, publishing on truthdig, has the story. An excerpt from Goodman's post:
For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club engaged in civil disobedience, the day after President Barack Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union address. The group joined scores of others protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which awaits a permitting decision from the Obama administration. The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

The Keystone XL pipeline is especially controversial because it will allow the exploitation of Canadian tar sands, considered the dirtiest oil source on the planet. One of the leading voices raising alarm about climate change, James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote of the tar sands in The New York Times last year, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” New research by nonprofit Oil Change International indicates that the potential tar-sands impact will be even worse than earlier believed. Because the proposed pipeline crosses the border between the U.S. and Canada, its owner, TransCanada Corp., must receive permission from the U.S. State Department.

I am long since not a participant in the Sierra Club leadership (though I am still a member and strong supporter of the Club), but I can say with some confidence that the first-ever decision to engage in civil disobedience was doubtless controversial within the leadership. Sierra Club is huge, powerful, sometimes unwieldy, and inevitably a synthesis of diverse factions that run the gamut of styles of environmental activism. No, this was almost certainly not easy. But Sierra Club was only one of dozens of org's engaging in the protests, and the issue couldn't be weightier from the standpoint of environmental consequences if the pipeline goes through.

Search Google Images on 'tar sands'.
Obama, meanwhile, is about as stalwart as... well, as a politician; what can I say. Opinions about his environmentalist credentials vary widely within the community. I, for one, am not impressed. As Dave Lippman said in a broadcast email today, he is "better than Romney." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, and it's the most I can say about his action (or inaction, or wrong action) on this particular issue.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Here's the first of doubtless many shockers: the pipeline has holes in it. Here's Emma Pullman at, in a list email:
20-year-old Isabel Brooks and two of her friends locked themselves inside a segment of the Keystone XL pipeline -- a controversial pipeline being built to carry toxic tar sands oil to the US coast for export -- to protest its construction. While inside the pipe, they discovered something shocking: there are already holes in the Keystone XL pipeline, created by faulty welding.

But moments after snapping a photo of the light coming into the supposedly airtight pipe, Isabel was arrested and held for 24 days in prison. An hour after her arrest, TransCanada laid that segment of pipeline in the ground without inspecting it.

The email goes on to say that TransCanada pipeline contractors hire their own pipeline inspectors. Regrettably this is not unusual in the "awl bidness" (as Texans often pronounce it). They just. don't. give. a. damn.

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