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Dems capitulate on Keystone XL while activists organize in Texas and Oklahoma

Posted Sep. 11, 2012 / Posted by: Kim Huynh

The dog days of summer haven’t done much to slow down TransCanada’s propulsion towards construction of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. The Canadian oil corporation last week unveiled its “new” proposed route through Nebraska. Spoiler alert: it’s almost exactly the same as the old one. They also haven’t diminished the Obama administration’s willingness to facilitate approval for a project that would carry the world’s dirtiest oil across our heartland.

Either Press Secretary Jay Carney was confused and misspoke at a White House briefing last month—not the first time it’s happened—or the Obama administration has all but completely put politics above policy in the heat of election season.

In response to a question about President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in January, Carney answered that the administration hasn’t “rejected anything.” In further clarifying the administration’s position in response to a question from ABC News’ Jake Tapper, Carney said, "the President didn't turn down the Keystone pipeline.”

If Carney’s statements can be brushed aside as a poorly worded parry against GOP attacks on Keystone XL, there’s absolutely no excusing former Vermont governor and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s comments on the pipeline last week.

In an interview with National Journal, Dean reiterated Carney’s blaming of the GOP, with an alarming addendum:

“Dean said he now expects Obama to approve the pipeline project after the election, noting that the Canadian oil sands will be developed no matter what happens.”

Equally troubling is the fact that Dean has been working for McKenna, Long & Aldridge, a law firm that represents the Keystone XL-backing company TransCanada, since 2009, when he finished his stint as chairman of the Democratic Party.

We’ve enumerated the problems with the State Department’s handling of the first round of review for Keystone XL in detail before, including the bias, conflict of interest, and collusion wrought by lobbyists close to State Department and administration officials. Instead of political finger-pointing, Carney and Dean would do well to outline the plethora of threats Keystone XL and further tar sands production poses to our water, land, public health, and the ever-destabilizing climate. In Dean’s case, going as far as echoing the industry’s own (false) myth about the inevitability of increased tar sands development is abhorrent.

But while the Obama administration and some Democrats appear to have abandoned communities across the Midwest to the whims of Big Oil, landowners and grassroots activists are using their hands, feet, and gumption to halt construction of Keystone XL’s southern segment through Oklahoma and Texas, which President Obama unconscionably gave his blessing to expedite in March.

Under the banner of the Tar Sands Blockade campaign, a broad coalition of climate justice organizers, Tea Party activists, landowners, and local community members are planning sustained, peaceful direct actions to physically stop pipeline construction, braving TransCanada’s henchmen and bulldozers in Texas and Oklahoma, Big Oil’s backyard.

With Tar Sands Blockade’s third action in a month, seven landowner advocates and climate justice organizers—including a Houston business owner, a retired minister, and a grandmother—were arrested last week for nonviolently locking themselves to the underside of a massive truck carrying 36-inch pipe intended for Keystone XL. Having successfully shut down construction operations for the day, the action sparked local and national TV, print, and radio media attention, and lit up the blogosphere

Last week, Tar Sands Blockade rallied to defend the home and livelihood of Winnsboro, TX landowner David Hightower. Not only would the path of Keystone XL run less than 200 feet from David’s front door, it would also plow straight through his muscadine grape vineyard, decimating his home business. Since Tar Sands Blockade began its campaign, supporters have flooded into East Texas, demonstrating the power of a committed group of people to take on one of the most moneyed and powerful interests in the world and win a healthier future for us all.    

With less than 60 days on the clock until November 4th and in the face of both sides of the party aisle pandering to political headwinds and vying to please the fossil fuel industry, the grassroots activism in Texas and Oklahoma have actually given us something to cheer for during the sometimes grotesque circus of election season: people power.

Tar Sands Blockade is a grassroots campaign funded entirely by the generosity of individual donors.

Click here to donate and directly support trainings, blockade materials, essentials like food, and legal defense. 

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