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Tar Sands Blockade sends a message to President Obama: Stop Keystone XL

Posted Jul. 18, 2012 / Posted by: Kim Huynh

Yesterday, activists with Tar Sands Blockade met President Obama’s motorcade in Austin, Texas wielding banners and signs with one simple message: stop the Keystone XL pipeline, no more tar sands through Texas. Tar Sands Blockade is a local and national mobilization planning nonviolent direct action in Texas against Keystone XL’s southern, export leg should construction begin this summer.

Rallying and marching near City Hall in downtown Austin, the activists’ chants caught the ear of the president before a banner was dropped over Lady Bird Lake. Keystone XL would threaten hundreds of vital waters in its path in Oklahoma and Texas, including the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which provides drinking water to more than 10 million Texans.

"The people of Texas want a big change -- we want to undo President Obama's decision to sacrifice our health and safety by rubber stamping the Gulf Coast segment of the Keystone XL pipeline.  It's up to us to ensure this pipeline -- and all the suffering it is sure to bring -- is never built," commented Ben Kessler, a Tar Sands Blockade member also affiliated with Rising Tide North Texas and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

After splitting its Keystone XL project into two parts earlier this year, TransCanada stealthily applied to the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency notorious for its lax environmental oversight, for a catch-all Nationwide Permit 12 for the southern leg of its pipeline, exploiting a weak oversight process that would grant blanket approval for hundreds of pipeline water crossings in Oklahoma and Texas without any environmental impacts review or public input.

In doing so, the company knowingly flouted EPA Region VI Associate Director Dr. Jane Watson’s recommendation in November 2011 to reject a blanket water permit for the southern segment of Keystone XL. Last month, the Army Corps’ district offices in Galveston, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma confirmed that they had allowed TransCanada’s permit applications for the southern segment to be approved by default when the 45-day review window for those offices closed on June 25th and 28th, respectively. The Army Corps’ Ft. Worth district office has yet to publicly confirm its timetable.

Last month, activists in Washington, DC delivered more than 117,000 petition signatures from Friends of the Earth and CREDO Action supporters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to intervene and stop the Army Corp’s rubber-stamping of the Keystone XL southern segment permits. Thousands of calls from Friends of the Earth activists across the country flooded Administrator Jackson’s office as actions kicked off in Texas and Oklahoma.

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