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Campaign to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline Has Big Oil on the Defensive

Posted Aug. 16, 2010 / Posted by: KTrout

When President Obama returned home to Chicago on August 4 and 5 to celebrate his birthday and fundraise, he was greeted by protestors concerned about a 1,700-mile pipeline that Big Oil is seeking his approval to build from Canada to Texas.

Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network Chicago teamed up to raise opposition to this pipeline, the Keystone XL, and to ensure that there’s no question in President Obama’s mind: Americans want clean energy now, not more dirty and dangerous oil.

Oiled Pelican at Palmer HouseBefore the president arrived, activists used mud to stencil the message, “Obama: No More Spills, Stop the Keystone Pipeline,” on sidewalks around his Hyde Park home. The following day, they held a banner above Lake Shore Drive, the president’s route downtown, calling on the president to stop the pipeline.

When the president arrived to speak at a fundraiser, protesters had gathered outside with a huge, oil-drenched pelican puppet and signs that read: “President Obama: No More Tar Sands Oil.” We handed out fliers to more than 1,000 passersby and many tourists stopped to have their picture taken with the pelican puppet.

Tar Sands RallyFriends of the Earth is fighting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline because it would endanger our climate and communities in its path by pumping 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day into the United States.

Tar sands oil is the dirtiest oil available when it comes to climate pollution: During production alone it emits three times more heat-trapping gases than conventional oil. Big Oil extracts tar sands oil from underneath Canada’s Boreal forest via mining projects that have become notorious internationally as the biggest and dirtiest on Earth. An area the size of Florida is slated for destruction. And the toxic lagoons Big Oil is leaving behind are causing cancer hot spots in communities downstream.

The Keystone XL pipeline would spread Canada’s environmental and human health catastrophe to the United States, putting farmland, drinking water supplies and property at risk of contamination from spills and dumping more air pollution on already choked communities in Texas where the dirty oil it would carry would be refined.

No Dirty Pipeline The protests in Chicago came on the heels of a series of victories for opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline. In June and July, 51 members of Congress voiced their concerns about the pipeline in letters to the Obama administration. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a leading voice on U.S. climate and energy policy, penned an especially strong letter condemning the pipeline as a multi-billion dollar investment in a dirty energy future. Later in July, the EPA released its comments on the project, rebuking the State Department for inadequately assessing the dangers this pipeline poses and urging that the project be put on hold until its potential impacts are fully studied.

In response to the growing movement against the pipeline, the State Department has agreed to extend its timeline for reviewing the project, moving it off the fast track. Pressure from Friends of the Earth activists helped achieve this victory. Our team sent an impressive 46,939 public comments and made 656 calls to the State Department urging that it reject the pipeline.

Our pressure -- along with last month's record spill from another tar sands oil pipeline in Michigan -- has also put Big Oil on the defensive. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, withdrew its application for a controversial safety waiver that would have allowed it to pump oil at pressures that exceed normal limits through thinner-than-normal steel. Friends of the Earth and our allies fought hard against this concession -- and we won!

You can help us keep pressure on the ultimate decider, President Obama, and convince him to reject this pipeline and more of the world’s dirtiest oil by sending a letter to the president today.

Once you've taken action, please consider going one step further by making a contribution to Friends of the Earth and our campaign to stop this pipeline today. Your donation will help us channel our momentum into a victory for healthy communities, clean air and water, and our climate -- and deliver a decisive defeat to Big Oil.

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