Keystone XL Pipeline Opponents Collect 500,000 Signatures in Seven Hours

WASHINGTON, DC, February 13, 2012 (ENS) – Starting at noon today, a coalition of more than a dozen environmentally-concerned organizations and businesses set out to gather at least 500,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and urging Senators to block amendments to the transportation bill that would reverse the President’s pipeline rejection.

On January 18, President Barack Obama determined that the 1,700-mile pipeline proposed by TransCanada to carry tar sands oil from nothern Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and on the Texas Gulf Coast is not in the national interest.

On Monday night, just under seven hours into the 24-hour petition drive, environmental and public interest groups reached their goal of sending the Senate over 500,000 messages opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Bill McKibben of 350.org will be on “The Colbert Report” television show tonight to update the number of signatures collected. McKibben was a primary organizer of Keystone XL protests last summer and fall outside the White House, where more than 1,200 people were arrested over several weeks.

Bill McKibben with reporters at the Vermont State House, February 7, 2012. (Photo by Sheryl Rapee-Adams)

“Beginning at noon today, every environmental group in the nation, not to mention great allies like MoveOn.org and CREDO Action, will come together for the most concentrated burst of environmental advocacy this millennia,” said McKibben. “We’re aiming to send half a million messages to the Senate in the next 24 hours. And they’ll all have the same message: back the President and make sure this pipeline doesn’t get built.”

Another attempt by Congressional Republicans to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline began this morning, as debate of highway funding legislation opened in the Senate.

Republican Senators John Hoeven of North Dakota, Richard Lugar of Indiana and David Vitter of Louisiana are heading a group of more than 40 senators behind legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project under Congress’s authority in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

Senator Lugar said, “President Obama’s most recent failure to help grow private sector jobs was his decision to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. I wrote the bill trying to stop him from delaying a decision until after the election and I will continue to work toward reversing his obstruction of this secure fuel supply. The Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 jobs including those from Indiana involved in supplying the project.

A vote on the amendment is not guaranteed in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Keystone XL supporters in the House of Representatives last week introduced a bill (H.R.4000) identical to the Senate bill, but even if both houses of Congress were approve it, President Obama will almost certainly veto the measure.

This Nebraska family is one of many to pose in front of a poster of a Nebraska farmer holding a sign “We Will Not Be Bullied – Stop the Transcanada Pipeline” January 14, 2012 (Photo by Marty Steinhausen courtesy Bold Nebraska)

The legislation authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.

The bill allows the company to move forward with construction of the pipeline in the United States while the state of Nebraska works to determine an alternative route.

“The arguments by now are clear,” said McKibben. “This pipeline won’t create jobs (that’s why the biggest labor unions in the country support the President). It puts the heartland of the country at risk from spills – the kind of leaks that devastated the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo Rivers in the year past. And after the year with the most weather disasters in the nation’s history, and amidst this weird and out-of-kilter winter, the fight against climate change must start here.”

Former Vice President Al Gore is among those lobbying against the pipeline. “If you care about the climate, you have to care about stopping this dangerous pollutant and the pipeline that carries it,” he said today. “After extensive research, the EPA estimates that annual carbon pollution from the Keystone XL pipeline could be at least 82 percent higher than average crude refined in America – if not more.”

“That’s the same amount of pollution as adding 4.8 million cars to our roads: an additional 27 million metric tons of carbon pollution,” said Gore, who commented in his role as founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project.

“Instead of pouring money into the production of more dirty oil, we need to work with Canada to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency,” Gore said. “Clean energy is already the fastest growing industry in the U.S. and one of the fastest growing industries around the world.”

Gene Karpinsky, who heads the League of Conservation Voters, said today, “President Obama was right to stand up to the political pressure from Big Oil and Republican leaders in Congress and refuse to make a rushed decision that could affect the health and safety of Americans. But we can’t let Big Oil’s congressional allies rollback the progress we’ve made.”

“24 hours from now, a team in Washington, DC will march into the Senate with 50 giant boxes, each holding 10,000 signatures. It will be a unified show of our power: our voices against the dollars of Big Oil,” Karpinsky said.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, center, in front of The White House with protesters opposed to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, November 6, 2011. (Photo by Javier Sierra courtesy Sierra Club)

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Americans don’t want this oil, they don’t want this risk, and they don’t want this political circus. The President stood up to Big Oil and rejected the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

“If Republicans in Congress were genuinely concerned about jobs they would have passed the jobs package last fall,” said Brune. “If they were genuinely concerned about building America they would pass a clean transportation bill. And if they were genuinely concerned about the American people they would get out of the business of approving dangerous oil industry pet projects.”

After nearly three years of study, the U.S. State Department is conducting a further environmental impact study after the pipeline route specified in TransCanada’s proposal was criticized by the state of Nebraska for imperiling the Sand Hills region, which overlies the Ogllala aquifer – source of drinking and irrigation water for much of the Great Plains.

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report last week pointing out flaws in the State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. (ENS, February 10, 2012)

Nevertheless, TransCanada is staging miles of pipe to build the line in a North Dakota field.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.