A pandemic can’t stop people from protesting. As the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline begins, the Indigenous Environmental Network has found a creative way to express their disapproval of the project by posting a “virtual banner” as a video on social media. The banner reads,”Not Today. Not Tomorrow. Not Ever. No KXL. Mni Wiconi.” TC Energy began construction on the project, despite orders by a federal judge to halt work after it was determined that the company did not receive a proper permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The Indigenous Environmental Network continues to find creative ways to fight the construction of the pipeline at a time when traditional protests are not an option. Read More.
With social crises escalating in the US and worldwide, it can be difficult to find news stories to give thanks for or to celebrate. This week, there are a few stories of environmental progress that shine a light in the darkness. These victories on the community, national and international levels prove that positive change, though sometimes slow in coming, is always on the horizon.
1) Community Victory in St. Louis: Just last week, Missouri delegates introduced legislation that would transfer the Bridgeton and West Lake Superfund Sites to the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, rather than the EPA. Community activists are hopeful that this change in authority will yield positive results for the communities near the site. As Lois Gibbs wrote in a statement last week, this move will take advantage of the Corps’ technical expertise, while shifting clean-up responsibility from Republic Services, which has managed the site under the EPA. This is not the end of the road for St. Louis communities who are threatened by a burning landfill creeping slowly towards another site containing radioactive waste. “What really must be moved is not only the jurisdiction of this clean-up, but vulnerable families. This is the first step on a long road to recovery for the families involved and for the natural environment,” said Gibbs.
2) National Decision on Keystone XL: On November 6th, President Obama announced his decision reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, which would have transported crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico. The potential for spills endangered the crucially important freshwater Oglalla aquifer and threatened communities along the pipeline’s route. Additionally, the pipeline project would have perpetuated injustices against indigenous people in Alberta Canada whose homes have been destroyed by tar sands development, while increasing impacts from oil refineries in the Gulf. Though this is undoubtedly a moment to celebrate, recent NPR coverage makes the point that “thousands of miles of pipelines have been built in the same time that people have debated the 875-mile stretch that would have completed the Keystone XL. And more are being built right now.” Though we are far from transforming the energy economy, the Keystone decision is a symbolic victory and a sign of the power of grassroots organizing.
3) International Community Gearing Up for Climate Negotiations: Even as Paris is reeling from devastating terror attacks last week, the city is still preparing to host the COP21 UN Climate Summit, where over 150 world leaders will gather and attempt to hash out an international response to climate change. The meeting is expected to result in the first climate agreement since the failed Kyoto Protocol. Though rallies and marches associated with the conference have been canceled in the wake of the attacks, thus removing a powerful channel for citizen actions, the talks will proceed, and will hopefully culminate in a powerful act of international solidarity in a city at its most vulnerable moment.
In the midst of international crises, the needle continues to move on critically important environmental justice issues, from community pollution to climate change. It’s the perfect time to give thanks for the community members and advocates who are fighting for change on these and other issues – to express gratitude for grassroots action that continues to guide the way forward to a more just world.
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By Kaley Beins
Few environmental concerns have received more media attention than TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline, a project designed to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada across 840 miles of the United States to Houston, Texas. Supporters of the project claim it will provide economic growth and domestic energy security, but critics have lambasted Keystone XL for its potential effects on climate change and the possibility of spills.
In addition to the environmental concerns connected to the pipeline, the proposed plan for Keystone XL disregards the sacred land of multiple indigenous groups. As Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) explained in IEN’s November 3rd E-Blast, “This dirty tar sands pipeline has met immense organized resistance from the Dene, Cree and Metis first nations at its source, thru [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][sic] the traditional lands of the Oceti Sakowin, also known as the Great Sioux Nation, and from the Ponca people of the southern great plains. This grassroots effort, coupled with alliances with non-native landowners helped the fight against Keystone XL become the marquee fight for the US Climate Movement.” Keystone XL is the very definition of an environmental justice issue.
After President Obama’s February 2015 veto of the Congressional bill that would have approved the pipeline, TransCanada and other supporters of Keystone XL have been trying to find other ways to pass the necessary legislation. This past Monday, November 2nd, TransCanada petitioned Secretary of State John Kerry to ask the U.S. State Department to pause its review of Keystone XL pending Nebraska’s approval of a portion of the route. Despite previously complaining of delays in the approval process, TransCanada is now asking for further delays, leading to speculation that it is trying to push the Keystone XL decision to the next presidential administration. This political move is significant as support for the pipeline is split directly along party lines; the Democratic nominees have come out against the pipeline, while the Republican nominees are in favor of it. However, on Wednesday the State Department decided to continue with its evaluation of the Keystone XL application.
Additionally, the White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced that President Obama plans to make a decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline before the end of his term. As December’s Paris Climate Summit approaches and Obama solidifies his legacy I hope that he upholds his commitment to addressing climate change, in this case by rejecting TransCanada’s Keystone XL project.
In the first week of 2015, President Obama sent a clear message to the new Republican congress that he intends to stand firm in his commitment to uphold the health of environment and the American public. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on January 6 in a public statement that president Obama would veto any effort to move forward with the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Now, after the Keystone Act was passed in the House and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate, we hope that the President will stand firm by his promise.
This Keystone XL Pipeline Act is an effort that pushes for the completion of a pipeline that would transport oil tar sands from the Canadian province of Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota, and into Nebraska. Republican leads have been pushing for the Keystone pipeline since 2008, with a virtually identical bill failing to make it through the Senate as recently as last November. However, with the newly shaped senate in place and an already approved vote of 266-153 in the House of Representatives, the President faces a tough task in keeping the pipeline from harming the health of millions of Americans.
The concerns surrounding the Keystone pipeline are staggering. Firstly, the type of oil being mined and moved, oil sand tar, produces as much as 22% more carbon emissions than other fuels according to a Stanford University study commissioned by the EU in 2011. Secondly, the potential for a spill is highly likely, as is evidenced by the previous A tar sand spill in Mayflower AR, and could contaminate drinking water and agricultural land with toxic chemicals as the Environmental Working Group’s Poisons in the Pipeline investigation revealed.
Now that the Keystone Act is in the Senate floor and multiple amendments that would mitigate the pipeline’s destructive effects are being shot down by the Republican majority, the President’s resolution will be tested to its fullest. Although the Act has every chance of making it through the Senate, the president still hold the ultimate say. His veto power may be the only thing that stands to protect the American public from the unthinkable harms that the Keystone Pipeline would bring.