On Monday night, February 3, over 270 vigils were held nationwide, with people in all 50 states gathering to express their dismay with the new U.S. State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued Friday January 31, claiming that the Keystone XL Pipeline would “not significantly worsen global warming.”
In the Twin Cities, rallies were held in St. Paul and in Minneapolis, at the State Department office downtown. There, a coalition of activists from diverse groups mobilized through Credo, Climate Parents, Interfaith Power and Light, Rainforest Action Network, Oil Change International, OccupyMN, Sierra Club, MN350.Org and more gathered at 7:00 p.m. for a rally to express their continued commitment to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline and Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper.
Tom McSteen, lead organizer of MN350.Org’s Tar Sands Campaign, opened the rally with a warm greeting to the 160 people gathered on such a cold night. Lighting candles and holding signs, participants welcomed MC Karen Monahan (Sierra Club) who facilitated an envigorating line-up of speakers. Paul Densmore (MN350) inspired listeners with news of the over 76,000 people committed to nonviolent direct action through the Credo Pledge of Resistance to Keystone XL, should President Obama actually sign the permit. Greta Gaard (MN350) gave details about the Alberta Clipper pipeline running through northern Minnesota, and its proposed expansion to carry 880,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day—80,000 more than the Keystone XL pipeline. Anna McDevit of Gustavus Adolphus youth spoke about young people’s sense of urgency about their own futures, and the health of the planet they are inheriting. Sam Grant of Movement Center for Deep Democracy spoke about the love and connection needed to bring about an understanding between corporate tar sands advocates and earth justice advocates. Susu Jeffrey read her Water Poem to the assembly, and Liz Rog led everyone in song. With this range of standpoints, participants renewed their commitment to take a nonviolent stand for ecological sustainability and to oppose further developments of nonrenewable energy sources.
Stop Keystone XL: The Movement Continues
People rallied in front of the State Department as a symbolic location where environmental justice activists could build community by sharing their grief, outrage, and resolution.
Co-authored by an oil industry contractor, Friday’s State Department report claiming that Keystone XL (KXL) “will not significantly worsen global warming” was a cause for general grief over the endangerment of the planet.
The KXL pipeline, carrying 800,000 barrels per day of the world’s dirtiest oil, will be a disaster for the climate, and the lives of Indigenous communities, farmers and homes along the route. The State Department’s revised Environmental Impact Statement avoids this fact by pointing out that if the KXL pipeline is not built, oil companies and the Canadian government will find other ways — primarily rail — to ship the oil to market. Already, over the last three years, rail shipments of oil from the tar sands region have increased from near zero to roughly 180,000 barrels a day. And there have been accidents. In clear defiance of public opinion, the prediction of the new EIS is that the tar sands oil is coming our way, through one channel or another.
Citizens can thwart that prediction by recognizing that Keystone XL is an important battle to win–but it’s only one battle in the larger war that fossil fuel corporations are waging against life on earth.
Planet Enbridge, or Planet Earth?
In Minnesota, we are already battling another Canadian company, Enbridge, and its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which has applied to the MN Public Utilities Commission for approval to increase capacity from its current 570,000 barrels per day to the full maximum of 880,000 barrels per day—80,000 more than the KXL Pipeline–bringing tar sands from Alberta, Canada across northern Minnesota and on to Superior, Wisconsin, and out to the Gulf Coast refineries for export.
The Alberta Clipper pipeline slipped through Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission hearing last summer, but thanks to the hard work of citizens objecting to the back-slapping between Enbridge executives and Minnesota’s environmental protection agencies, a “contested case” hearing date has been set for Thursday, April 3. This pipeline, like KXL, is an environmental nightmare.
- The Alberta Clipper places three Minnesota watersheds, the Mississippi River and eleven other rivers at risk—and there is a proposal to ship oil on Lake Superior, the planet’s largest body of fresh water.
- Enbridge pipelines have reported over 800 spills and leaks between 1999 and 2010, with 1.5 million gallons of oil and gas already discharged into Minnesota’s environment.
- The 2010 Michigan Enbridge pipeline spill of almost a million gallons into the Kalamazoo River shows that Tar sands oil is almost impossible to clean up.
- Tar sands oil extraction, refinement and use produces up to 37% more CO2 than conventional oil, and contributes significantly to coal fired electrical generation through its refinery byproduct, petcoke.
Shall we allow our society to continue hurtling down the express lane to planetary destruction, sweeping indigenous communities, rural communities, the water, trees, animals, and the Two-Thirds world in front of us? Over 160 rally participants—and allies who were present in spirit—said NO! Keystone XL is a climate disaster, and President Obama must reject it—and even more, our communities must transition away from this fossil-fuel lifestyle.
People left Monday night’s rally with a two-fold resolution: some planned to attend their precinct caucuses and bring a formal Resolution Halting the Enbridge Energy Expansion. Others committed to attend the Contested Case Hearing for the Alberta Clipper Expansion on April 3 at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and to commit civil disobedience if President Obama fails to block the KXL from being completed.
On this cold February night in Minneapolis, the environmental community showed its fire.