Photo: 2013 rally in San Diego
By Miriam Raftery
February 1, 2014 (San Diego) – A final environmental impact statement released this week by the U.S. State Department on impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline has alarmed environmentalists, who are organizing rallies nationwide on Monday, February 3. A candlelight vigil urging President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the controversial pipeline to pump tar sands oil across America will be held Monday night at 6 p.m. in front of the federal building at 880 Front Street in downtown San Diego.
According to the Washington Post, the report issued Friday concludes that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be unlikely to alter global greenhouse gas emissions, but officials cautioned that they are still weighing whether the project would meet the test of President Obama’s broader climate strategy.
Organizers say the public is the “last line of defense” to halt the project. The State Department report triggers a 90-day “national interest determination” with input by other agencies to the Department, after which the State Department will issue a recommendation to the President regarding final approval.
NASA scientist James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “game over for the climate” predicting that if constructed, it would release such massive amounts of sequestered carbon from the oil sands that climate change would become irreversible. Other climate scientists have said that two-thirds of all known fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
But the State Department report whitewashes those concerns, stating, “Climate changes are anticipated to occur regardless of any potential effects from the proposed project.” The report does, however note that the pipeline would fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions equivalent to 300,000 cars and that there is significant risk of oil spills causing ecological harm; 1,692 pipeline “incidents” in the U.S. have already occurred in just six months. Opponents of the pipeline have said they fear the powerful oil industry lobby has influenced the report’s findings.
In Canada, the Pembria Institute has said that pollution from the oilsands remains the single largest barrier to achieving Canada’s national 2020 goals to slow climate change
Senate Republican Mitch Connell, meanwhile, claims the report shows “no reason to continue stalling construction of the Keystone XL Pipeiine.” He has called on the President to approve it because he said “America needs those jobs.”
But Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, says the public has the power to win out over “spin from the oil industry,” noting that Obama had promised to reject the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate carbon pollution. “Don’t believe the media hype; with your help, we can defeat Keystone XL once and for all,” he said, the environmental news site Reviving Gaia reports.
In San Diego, Monday’s vigil is cosponsored by SanDiego350.org with support from Citizens Climate Lobby, Sierra Club San Diego, Women Occupy San Diego and other local organizations. Two prior rallies against the pipeline held last year drew 200 and 500 people respectively.