Ethical Culture Members Take Part at the Tar Sands Action
Leader of the National Ethical Service and Essex Society for Ethical Culture
The Tar Sands Action opposes the construction of the 1,600 mile long Keystone XL Pipeline which, if approved, would send the message to the world that US greed for energy far outweighs its concerns for basic ethical principles of proportionality and consequences. The Action plans to reverse the trend to search aggressively for carbon fuel rather than to build a green economy with emphasis upon alternative sources for energy. It also strives to educate US citizens about the fallacy of natural gas as a clean energy.
The Keystone Pipeline system already transports synthetic crude oil from Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada to Illinois, Oklahoma, and the US Gulf Coast. The expansion of the system will pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas -- crossing nearly 2,000 waterway systems. The project must be approved by President Obama in order for it to proceed, and the aim of the protest is to convince the President to reject the project.
Fifty members of Congress spoke out against the Keystone XL Pipeline, warning that building it could "undermine America's clean energy future and international leadership on climate change." On July 21, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered an impact study on the project and its lengthy report was issued on August 26, 2011. The report stated that the pipeline would pose "no significant impacts" to most resources if environmental protection measures are followed, but it would present "significant adverse effects to certain cultural resources."
Between one and three billion dollars is being cut from the 2012 EPA budget. Many of the counties through which the pipeline will pass have few clean water regulatory policies in place. There were 11 oil spills last year in the present Keystone Pipeline. There is little likelihood that environmental protection measures can or will be implemented. A Presidential decision is expected toward the end of the year.
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
I was never prouder than when Tom Genung, a Nebraskan sporting a white cowboy hat, called out to me as I was taken away in plastic cuffs by the National Parks Police on Saturday, September 3. We New Yorkers met members of the statewide group Bold Nebraska who had flown to Washington, D.C. to protest the Tar Sands pipeline that Trans Canada is proposing to build from Alberta through Montana and the aquifers of the Midwest, down almost 2,000 miles to the Texas Gulf.
It was the last day of a two week protest that had growing numbers of people sitting down in front of the White House to pressure President Obama to turn down the multinational's permit request to build the pipeline. Responding to a call from environmentalist Bill McKibben and the Tars Sands Action Network, 243 of us sat down that last day, pushing the total arrested to 1,252. Among us were Northeasterners fighting hydrofracking; the toxic, water-polluting process for extracting natural gas, and Puerto Ricans fighting a devastating pipeline of their own.
The Keystone XL pipeline is one of those unusual opportunities in politics where the decision about whether it goes forward falls on one person. President Obama gets a chance to show by the end of the year whether he really is for building an economy beyond oil, whether he opposes the particularly dirty oil that comes out of the tar sands which is even more of a time bomb for climate change than regular oil, whether he wants to defend the boreal forests and water sources destroyed in the aggressive mining of Alberta's tar sands -- and whether he treasures his own nation's water.
Trans Canada plans to route the pipeline through the Midwest's Ogallala aquifer which "provides 30 percent of our agricultural water and drinking water to two million Americans," reports the Sierra Club. "Because Keystone XL would be a buried pipeline, it would have to be buried within the aquifer itself while traveling through the [Nebraska] Sandhills," reports Friends of the Earth. Carrying the particularly corrosive tar sands crude, the company's Keystone 1 pipeline had 12 spills in its first year. That's why Nebraskans have risen up. Even the state's governor and senators have questioned the project. It is an issue that crosses party lines.
Nebraska law invites pipeline companies to use the state's power of eminent domain to take land if private citizens won't sell. Billboards and t-shirts across the state say "I'm Standing with Randy" -- Randy Thompson, that is, a rancher who is refusing to sign over his land to Trans Canada and has called on his state's Attorney General to investigate the high pressure tactics the company is taking threatening eminent domain even though it doesn't yet have a permit to build the pipeline. A September poll found that 47 percent of voting Nebraskans are standing with Randy in opposing the pipeline -- as are Al Gore, two national transit workers unions and Desmond Tutu -- and only 33 percent supported it.
Allen Schreiber was another Nebraskan who was arrested with me, and after he returned home he was flabbergasted to see Trans Canada's logo as the sponsor of a video about the "Huskers Pipeline" at a football game of the beloved state university team. He ran a campaign that forced the university to stop the sponsorship.
Bold Nebraska discovered this is a battle about democracy and getting state officials to own responsibility for the safety and routes of the pipelines crisscrossing the country. Pipeline companies are accorded great power to take land and self-regulate. Citizens need to take that power back and defend water, a natural resource and public good that oil companies sully because it has no value in their calculus. Meanwhile, in other states, the White House demonstrators are now the core of those who are dogging President Obama, Vice President Biden and other high profile officials on their local stops, and visiting Obama campaign offices, challenging the president to stop the project.
Greg Tewksbury will lead a platform at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on November 13th called "Climate Crisis and the Ethics of Direct Action".