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Protesting the tar sands pipeline

Marygrace Kennedy at the Tar Sands Action just before her mother, Virginia was arrested.

By Virginia and Marygrace Kennedy
September 1, 2011

WASHINGTON DC — This August, well-known environmental writer and leader for action against climate change Bill McKibben, along with other leading environmentalists, environmental groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and religious organizations organized the “Tar Sands Action,” a massive civil disobedience protest to encourage President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Keystone XL is a proposed pipeline that would link Alberta, Canada’s tar sands oil to refineries in Texas. This proposed pipeline route would cross critically sensitive areas like the Ogallala Aquifer that holds 30% of America’s groundwater and provides water to millions of people, and push through thousands of acres of farm and ranch land disrupting lives and livelihoods all along its route. Pipeline companies insist they are using “state of the art” technologies that should leak only once every seven years, but the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year.

Tar sands construction has already stripped thousands of acres of boreal forests, decimating huge swaths of Alberta and wreaking havoc on indigenous communities. The even more frightening scenario is, as the Tar Sands Action organizers put it, that, “the Keystone Pipeline would also be a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet.”

NASA climatologist Jim Hansen has made the case that if the world wants to have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground. If the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is essential to removal of tar sands oil; without it, extraction operations are irreparably hampered. Because stakes are so high, Virginia and Marygrace Kennedy of Dingmans Ferry, PA made the decision to join the Tar Sands Action. Following are their reflections on the experience.

Virginia: On Friday, August 19, my daughter Marygrace and I headed down to Washington DC to participate in the Tar Sands Action meant to convince President Obama not to sign on to the Keystone XL. The pipeline is an executive decision; Obama does not have to face Congress on this one. He makes the call on his own.