Like many of our campaigns, the fight against Keystone XL changes quickly, so make sure to check out the current posts on the front page, as well as updates in our newsletter, to get the latest.
The purpose of this campaign is to organize opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline which would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, to then be exported. The tar sands are already destroying First Nation communities in Canada and if the new pipeline is built, it allow for massively increased tar sands extraction and be game over for our Earth’s climate. Our campaign has two main tactics. We are prepared to commit peaceful, respectful, and dignified nonviolent direct action in coordination with the national Keystone Pledge of Resistance. We also plan and conduct events such as rallies, vigils, and street theater that don’t risk arrest.
What Is The Pledge of Resistance?
Since 2011, several hundred people in the Pioneer Valley of MA have participated in conversations about the Keystone XL Pipeline. These conversations led to agreement to participate in the national “Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance.” The national Pledge was launched on March 6, 2013 by a coalition including CREDO, Rainforest Action Network, The Other 98%, Bold Nebraska, Hip Hop Caucus, 350.org and Oil Change International. As of February 8, 2015, 97,111 signers were listed on the national website http://act.credoaction.com/
The most important thing for our Pledge of Resistance is that all of us are ready to spring into action when needed, and that the threat of mass civil disobedience to block Keystone XL remains credible, known and continues to grow.
It is time for us to pledge to resist. That is, we are asking you to commit – should it be necessary to stop Keystone XL — to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.
If tens of thousands of people stand up as President Obama mulls his final decision, and commit to participate in civil disobedience if necessary, we can convince the White House that it will be politically unfeasible to go forward. That is, our goal is not to get arrested. Our goal is to stop the Keystone XL pipeline — by showing enough opposition to Keystone XL that President Obama will reject it. But if he shows clear signs he that he is preparing to approve it, we will be ready.
The Pledge continues to build a movement growing from “two weeks in August of 2011, when the peaceful and dignified arrest of 1,253 people over two weeks at President Obama’s front door effectively stopped what was considered a virtually guaranteed presidential approval of Keystone XL.”
What Is The Keystone XL Pipeline?
The Keystone XL pipeline would be a conduit for the more than three trillion barrels of toxic tar sands in Alberta, bringing 830,000 barrels per day to refineries on the Gulf Coast for shipment overseas.
It is the vast quantities of oil that would be released to the market by the KXL and similar pipelines that have made the Keystone construction what NASA scientist James Hansen called “game over for the climate.” Stopping Keystone is critical because there’s strong scientific evidence that most of the oil reserves known to be in the ground must not be extracted if we are to have a real chance of maintaining a decent quality of life for humanity and any semblance of biodiversity.
Cheap transport by pipeline is the key to large-scale release of the more than 400 gigatons of carbon in the tar sands. Yet a major study published in the journal Nature on January 8, 2015 finds that mainstream climate scientists are virtually unanimous in saying that as much as two-thirds of the world’s deposits of fossil fuels must remain in the ground if climate disaster is to be avoided (NYTimes). Rising seas and floods, drought and fires in the Midwest and Western United States, massive hurricanes and freak tornadoes are all consequences of climate change. Keystone XL’s additional emissions are projected to cause $128 billion in climate-related costs.
Furthermore, the process of mining (of -delete) the tar sands requires vastly greater amounts of energy and water than traditional oil extraction. Tar sands oil requires four times more energy than oil to produce, and is much dirtier to burn. If it were to replace “normal” West Texas crude in the market, the additional carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be 27.4 million metric tons per year, equal to the tailpipe emissions of 5.7 million extra cars on the road.
Tar sands oil extraction has already polluted streams and groundwater in huge swaths of the mining sites in Alberta. And after mining, to be able to flow through a pipeline, the oil must be mixed with volatile solvents to create diluted bitumen or “dilbit”. Spills of this corrosive and toxic mixture have been much more difficult to clean than spills of conventional oil. (For example, The Kalamazoo River oil spill of July 2010 was the largest inland oil spill and one of the costliest spills in U.S. history. When the “dilbit” mixture was exposed to air, the chemical components, including carcinogenic benzene, separated and released toxic gases, which forced many people to evacuate their homes. Meanwhile, the heavier tar sands oil sank, which required a destructive dredging of the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup cost exceeded the cap on the pipeline owner’s liability insurance by nearly $600 million. This spill shows what could happen along the Keystone pipeline and demonstrates how much more destructive tar sands crude spills are compared with spills of lighter crude.)
Even with the re-routing of sections of the Keystone XL Pipeline, it is still planned to run over the Ogallala Aquifer, the water source for 30% of US farmland, putting it at risk of contamination. Indigenous peoples in both Canada and the US have organized opposition to the pipeline, pointing to damage that has already occurred to Alberta lands and the people who live there, with huge swaths of land strip mined and cancer rates increasing.
TransCanada and Keystone supporters have claimed that over 40,000 jobs will be created. More realistic estimates are in the 5,000 – 10,000 range. and these are only short-term initial construction jobs. A State Department analysis predicted only 35 to 50 permanent jobs for Keystone. Equivalent investments in green technologies would result in many thousands of permanent jobs.
With regard to energy independence, public data shows that Gulf of Mexico refiners are focused on expanding exports to Europe and Latin America. One public report showed Valero Oil, a key customer for Keystone crude, has explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors.
Why Focus on Keystone?
Some have belittled the importance of the Keystone protests, claiming that other strategies should take precedence because of their greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These include reducing emissions from coal-fired plants and setting standards for new buildings and vehicle fuel economy. But environmental leaders such as James Hansen, Bill McKibben, and Naomi Klein have turned the spotlight onto Keystone because of the size and scale of Alberta’s tar sands reserves, coupled with the brutal economics of oil extraction. Simply put, 1) there is as much oil under Alberta as there is under Saudi Arabia; 2) extracting this oil from the tar sands produces more greenhouse emissions than any other oil extraction; and 3) most important is the overall need to leave the oil in the ground. That oil – current proven reserves – equals over $10 trillion in oil industry revenues. Regardless of the price of oil at any point in time, this produces significant pressure on oil companies to extract the tar sands.
By rejecting the pipeline, President Obama can take historic action that will add significant momentum to ending our global oil addiction and leave a less toxic environment for future generations. (instead of leaving the field to fossil fuel companies and declaring “game over” for our biosphere. delete this?)
What Is Our Plan?
Our action plan flows from conversations held in numerous meetings over the past few years.
Principles: The most important fact about our plan is that our actions will be peaceful, respectful, and dignified. All those risking arrest have been trained in nonviolent direct action (NVDA) and have committed to the following principles which will guide our actions. (These principles were taken from the national Pledge Training Guide. We made a few minor additions to fit our local situation.)
With the recognition that history is on our side in the fight against the fossil fuel industry, that we are part of the proud and successful tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, and that our actions also reflect on tens of thousands of others standing together across the country, we will conduct our behavior in only the most peaceful, respectful and dignified manner.
We are each firmly committed to the safety of all participants and the surrounding community, and we will not bring with us any weapons, drugs or alcohol, or participate in any acts of vandalism or destruction of property. We will not engage in physical or verbal violence.
We will work to protect everyone around us from insult or attack, including those who may oppose or disagree with us.
We will remember that irresponsible actions could endanger others, or lead to the arrest of people who do not want to be arrested, and we will not use threatening language or threatening motions toward anyone.
We will act and communicate in a manner of openness, friendliness and respect toward everyone we encounter, including police officers, court officials, and members of the community at large.
As members of this action, we will follow the guidance of national organizers in the direction of our local organizers, including the Action Lead, Support Role Leads, and Decision “Point Persons” who will make on-the-spot decisions during our actions.
If an individual has a serious disagreement with these organizers either prior to or during the action, the individual will not participate in our group action.
If an individual does not respect and adhere to these guidelines and principles, that individual cannot participate in an action as part of the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
See you out there!