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Keystone Pipeline’s March to the Sea

2013 January 10
Robert Redford, actor, director and environmental activist.

Robert Redford, actor, director and environmental activist.

By William Boardman,consortiumnews.com/ – Progress continues on the Keystone XL pipeline as it overcomes creative protests and legal challenges in East Texas. But opposition also is building with big-name environmentalists, like Robert Redford, urging the Obama administration to stand up against global warming, reports William Boardman.
Construction of the southern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline continues to march through East Texas toward the sea with the implacability of Sherman’s army through Georgia in 1864, although with less scorched earth and a lot fewer casualties (at least if one doesn’t factor in the future impact on global warming).

So far, the Canadian pipeline corporation has faced and overcome opposition all along the way – from protesters, blockaders and court challenges – and as of Jan. 4, TransCanada reported that the 485-mile construction projectwas roughly a third complete and pretty much on schedule for completion before the end of 2013.
Despite setbacks as recently as Jan. 3, when a police-supervised cherry-picker collected a tree-sitter from the pipeline right-of-way, the Tar Sands Blockade and other opposition groups kept their actions going with a non-violence training camp over the weekend.

This led to the Tar Sands Blockade’s largest demonstration so far, on Jan. 7, when about 100 protesters occupied the lobby in the TransCanada office building. After about an hour, police cleared the building almost peacefully, with little more than some pushing and shoving. There were few arrests.

Most of the evicted demonstrators gathered in a greenspace across the street, where they performed street theatre featuring a “pipeline dragon,” as some 40 police looked on, some on horseback quietly drinking their Starbucks coffee.

A potentially much more important struggle goes on mostly out of sight in Washington, DC, where the Secretary of State is officially responsible for accurately assessing the environmental impact of the whole Keystone XL, all 1,100-plus miles of it.

This assessment was ordered almost a year ago, when President Obama resisted congressional pressure and denied the pipeline a permit to cross from Canada into the U.S. until the evaluation was done – making the final decision a clear indicator of the President’s seriousness about climate change.

This was the subtext of environmentalist and moviemaker Robert Redford in a recent piece that doesn’t mention President Obama by name, but calls in quietly measured tones for his government to deny the pipeline a permit:

“This is a time for climate leadership. So, instead of a shoddy Keystone XL environmental review, the first major climate action for this Administration’s second term should be to set limits on climate change pollution from power plants. That is the kind of action that makes sense.

“And then it will make sense to reject this dirty energy project. With extreme weather taking its toll on communities all over America, we can’t afford another major dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

The Alberta tar sands in Canada, like tar sands everywhere, do not contain oil, per se. The near-solid bitumen in tar sands can be turned into a high-sulfur content oil by treatment with toxic chemicals, heat and pressure. Read more…

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