Opposition to Keystone XL Pipeline Heating Up

Photo by Robert van Waarden

The fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline is heating up, with many positive and important developments occuring this past week, excluding the disgraceful, though unsurprising decision by the Obama for President 2012 campaign team to bring a former TransCanada lobbyist, Broderick Johnson (husband of NPR's Michele Norris), onto its upper-level staff.

Six main big ticket items stand out, in particular:

  • call for a U.S. State Department Office of the Inspector General probe into the Keystone XL pipeline review process by 14 U.S. Congressional members.
  • call for a special session to occur on November 1 by Nebraska Republican Governor Dave Heineman regarding pipeline safety concerns.
  • meeting between leaders of the youth climate movement and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson on the pipeline.
  • A recent massive anti-pipeline action that took place in San Francisco, in which 1,000 protesters greeted Obama at one of his fundraising events for his 2012 presidential run.
  • An announced push-back of the Keystone XL pipeline final decision date by the State Department. 
  • An acknowledgement, at last, by President Barack Obama that he is taking into consideration the concerns voiced by citizens nationwide about the potential risks to public health, water supplies and the global climate if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

Video of Keystone XL Tar Sands Protesters Arrested At The White House

Usually the best way to solve a neighborly spat is to march right up to the door and talk it out, face-to-face. However, if said neighbor happens to be away a lot and has rooftop snipers protecting the property, Plan B may be in order: shouting through the fence.

That's why for two weeks over 1250 people got arrested in front of the White House in an attempt to show President Obama that putting a leaky, oily pipeline through their collective backyards is not a very neighborly thing to do. Each day of the protest averaged between 50-100 arrests, steadily increasing until the 14th (and last) day when 244 people were arrested, resulting in the largest act of civil disobedience yet for the climate movement.

Participants protesting the Keystone XL pipeline spanned a wide range of ages, occupations, and origins: including those from the heartland of the Midwest where the pipeline is set to run through, and indigenous and frontline communities situated near the tar sands in Canada.

Over One Hundred Arrested Protesting Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline At White House

The DC police force must have recently put in a big order for plasti-cuffs. The commencement of the Keystone XL pipeline protest, which kicked off this past weekend, saw over 100 arrested in the first two days. But there won’t be time for a donut break yet, as the action is set to continue over the next two weeks with over 2,000 people signed up to get arrested in protest of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would carry the world’s filthiest oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast if approved by the Obama administration.

With people coming in from all around the nation, protesters hope to pressure President Obama to deny the permit needed to build the proposed 1700-mile pipeline from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast. Reports about the supposed safety of the pipeline have proven less than stellar, and TransCanada pipelines have already had 12 spills this year. The administration must make a decision about the pipeline by November 1st, and there is pressure coming from cheerleaders of pollution such as the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to name a few, for the pipeline to go through.

It’s not the easiest thing on earth for law-abiding folk to come risk arrest. But this pipeline has emerged as the single clear test of the president’s willingness to fight for the environment,” said environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading the protests and was arrested on Saturday.

The Bidder 70 26: The Catalyst That Will Ignite The Climate Movement

The night before Tim DeChristopher’s sentencing was like any other before an action - we were all up way too late, distressed about work that hadn’t gotten done, going over every last detail for the morning rally. Still somewhat fixated on our laptops, we all waved goodbye as Tim got up to go home to finish his speech for court the next day.

As I sat in the courtroom listening to Tim speak to the judge, all I could think about was what if I were in Tim’s place - what would I say, could I be as composed and articulate as Tim? Would I even be willing to put myself in the position to risk long-term federal incarceration?

During his speech to the judge, Tim could finally say what he was not allowed to during the jury trial. “The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today,” Tim said as he explained how our current destructive institution has not only threatened the planet, but taken the power to hold government accountable for unjust policies and practices away from its citizens. “You may have authority over my life, but not over my principles.” [Read Tim DeChristopher’s offiical statement from the sentencing hearing at]

BREAKING: Tim DeChristopher Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

At 3:00 pm MST today, the end of a very long and emotional saga came to fruition as the gavel banged down on the judge’s desk in a federal courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tim DeChristopher, convicted earlier this year with two federal felonies, will be spending two years in prison for his creative act of non-violent protest against an illegitimate oil and gas lease auction set up by the Bush administration in late 2008. Known as “Bidder 70”, the climate activist swiftly shut down the auction by pretending to buy millions of dollars worth of public Utah land leases originally intended to go to oil and gas companies. Tim was immediately taken into custody on Tuesday after the two-year sentence was announced.  He faces three years probation and a $10,000 fine as well.

Many have heard of his story in the three years since he picked up that fateful Bidder 70 paddle. The trial was delayed eight times and sentencing was supposed to happen last month at the end of June, but ended up being pushed back by a month at the last minute. During this time, Tim has garnered a large following as he’s traveled the country talking about his experiences with the injustices of the court system.

He’s used this platform to effectively inspire others to consider non-violent civil disobedience as a strategy for shifting power away from domineering fossil fuel industries and back into the hands of the people fighting for a livable future. Tim talked about transforming the economy into something more than a cleaner, greener version of what is currently in place - a total system change that decentralizes large energy conglomerates, emboldens the power of local community, and works for the benefit of more than the richest 1% of the country.

Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

Ralliers March To Preserve Blair Mountain And Stop Mountaintop Removal

This week, hundreds of marchers will convene in the West Virginian wilderness to walk over 50 miles in 5 days. Organized by Friends of Blair Mountain and Appalachia Rising, the March to Blair Mountain is a 7-day event in which participants will weather obstacles such as the outdoors, possible intimidating counter protestors, port-a-potties, and withstanding 500 people who haven’t showered in 5 days all culminating on June 11th in a protest atop historic Blair Mountain in West Virginia.

Blair Mountain is slated as a site for mountaintop removal - in which the coal companies (like Massey) literally explode the tops off of mountains to reach the coal deposits inside and leave the surrounding ecosystems and communities devastated. In fact, the the amount of explosives used each week is equivalent to one Hiroshima bomb. It would be like if your doctor were to just blow off parts of your body in order to excise a tumor, instead of carefully cutting their way through in order to later put the pieces back together in a functional form.

WPI Students Protest ExxonMobil Speaker at Graduation

After four grueling years of late nights studying and more Ramen noodles than any one person should ever consume, most students don’t find themselves protesting their own graduation. Yet on Saturday, a group of graduates from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) did just that as a row of seats towards the back were left empty for them. No, they weren’t protesting the abhorrent prices of graduation gowns they would never wear again or the absence of top-shelf champagne at the ceremony: they were protesting its speaker.

As soon as WPI announced Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, would be this year’s graduation speaker, many students suddenly were “left confused, even betrayed,” graduating senior Katrina Crocker told DeSmogBlog. It didn’t make sense that WPI, a school recognized as one of the greenest universities in the nation, would invite the CEO of one of the largest dirty energy companies on the planet to address the class of 2011. In contrast to WPI’s green priorities, ExxonMobil reaps billions in dirty energy profits while polluting the environment and contributing to global climate change, all while simultaneously funding front groups to attack climate scientists and confuse the public.

New Coal Cares™ Campaign Targeting Link Between Coal And Asthma Leaves Viewers Breathless

Peabody Energy seemed to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday as they started to receive curious phone calls from consumers asking just how many Justin Beiber inhalers they were planning on giving away, and how courageous it was that a coal company was stepping up to acknowledge the role that pollution from their coal plants makes people sick, especially kids with asthma. Alas, the PR team at Peabody was quite confused on both accounts.

Around 9:00 am eastern time, a new “market-friendly public health initiative” hit journalists’ email inboxes announcing the launch of Coal Cares™, a campaign from Peabody Energy that would give away free novelty-themed inhaler actuators and also generously offer a $10-off coupon for the actual asthma medication, but only if you lived within 200 miles of a coal plant (news flash, you probably do).

Power Shift 2011 Round Up

I was sitting outside the DC Metropolitan Police Station last night at 11:30 pm when the last arrestee out of 21 for the day came out to cheers from the supportive crowd. The weekend of Power Shift 2011 ended with quite a bang, with the final day of the conference leading up to a massive day action to say no to big polluters.

I’ve been attending the Power Shift conference, in which 10,000 climate youth leaders descended onto Washington DC. It is always reaffirming to be around thousands of people that don’t think you’re some kind of nerd or radical hippie when you say you’re associated somehow with the environmentalist/climate change/clean energy/climate justice movement. There’s still such a stigma associated with climate change and environmentalism, especially with the right-wing denier machine pushing out tropes that we’re all communists wrapped in a blanket of radicalism vying to “kill the parents”.

It’s uplifting to remember at least once in a while there are thousands of people committed and passionate about working to establish a clean energy economy and promote meaningful climate legislation. And the climate justice movement isn’t just geared toward saving the planet, this movement also works toward helping to improve racial and social justice issues too.


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