Anti-tar sands activists in the United States and Canada have been seeking to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, built to transport oil from the Athabasca tar sands in north-east Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. Mining the Athabasca tar sands is one of the most environmentally destructive practices on the planet. Bill McKibben posted the message below on November 10. It is abridged from www.tarsandsaction.org.
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Um, we won.
Not completely. President Barack Obama didn’t outright reject the pipeline permit. But a few minutes ago the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project.
The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.
And he has made clear that the environmental assessment won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company ― that it will be an expert and independent assessment. We will watch that process like hawks, making sure that it doesn’t succumb to more cronyism.
It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end.
As late as last week, the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.
There have been few even partial victories about global warming in recent years so that makes this an important day.
The deepest thanks go to those who campaigned: to our indigenous peoples who began the fight, to the folks in Nebraska who rallied so fiercely, to the scientists who explained the stakes, to the environmental groups who joined with passionate common purpose, to the campuses that lit up with activity, to the faith leaders that raised a moral cry, to the labour leaders who recognised where our economic future lies, to the Occupy movement that helped galvanise revulsion at insider dealing, and most of all to the people in every state and province who built the movement that made this decision inevitable.
Our fight, of course, is barely begun.
The president should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow re-emerges from the review process, we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built; if there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line.
We need to let the president and oil companies know that we’re ready to take action should they try to push this pipeline through in a couple of years.
In the meantime, since federal action will be in abeyance for a long stretch, we need to figure out how best to support our Canadian brothers and sisters, who are battling against proposed pipelines west from the tar sands to the Pacific.
And we need to broaden our work to take on all the forms of “extreme energy” coming to the fore: mountaintop removal coal mining, deep sea oil drilling, fracking for gas and oil.
Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward.
I know, because of my own weariness, how hard so many people have worked. It was good work, done in the right spirit, and it has secured an unlikely victory.