Six years of powerful resistance to Keystone XL

Six years of powerful resistance to Keystone XL

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Today we celebrate six years of successful campaigning against the Keystone XL pipeline. Every day we succeed in keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a victory for humanity and our planet. The fact that we have resisted this long is a testament to the strength and determination of frontline communities and national activists.

Science 101 tells us that we cannot address climate change if we continue investing in fossil fuel infrastructure. Although the president has said he will only approve Keystone XL if doing so does not exacerbate climate change, there is simply no way that a pipeline designed to transport one of the dirtiest, least-economical fuels in existence could pass that test.

This Sunday, as thousands take to the streets of New York City to demand action on climate change, we will have another chance to remind the president that this pipeline presents him with a clear choice. If he is listening, he will heed this display of the people’s will and help keep Canada’s tar sands in the ground.

Keystone XL has come to represent much more than a singular pipeline; an entire movement is now rallying around the ‘Keystone Principal’ – the idea that we cannot address climate change while continuing to invest in fossil fuels. It has become a wide-ranging struggle that brings together everything from climate justice to government accountability.

The battle over Keystone XL, however, has been a success because it has been waged by such a diversity of groups all over the United States and Canada.

American ranchers, farmers and tribal groups have stood up against the imperialism of TransCanada. This for-profit oil company is trying to bulldoze a pipeline through America’s breadbasket and in the process undermine the sovereignty of local and federal decision-making bodies and US laws intended to safeguard our communities and public health.TransCanada’s horrendous spill and safety track record adds further insult to injury as the administration considers whether Keystone XL is in the public interest.

Tribal and local groups continue to resist the development of the tar sands in Canada, the decimation of precious wetlands, and the destruction of their homes. Communities downstream from the project are facing unprecedented incidence of cancers and other serious illnesses, while contaminated food sources and habitats have turned their livelihoods upside down. 

The Keystone XL movement has been built by courageous activists who have come together many times in opposition to the Keystone XL over the last six years. Just a handful of the most important actions on Keystone include:

Reject and Protect

Reject and Protect rally

This past April, the Cowboy Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities from along the pipeline route, rode into Washington, DC and set up camp near the White House.

On April 26th, thousands more joined them in sending the clear message that the Keystone XL pipeline must be rejected and tar sands development stopped.

Nebraska Route Case and South Dakota permits

Nebraska protest, credit Flickr user Dan Holtmeyer

Groups in Nebraska have been formidable pipeline opponents.
A few weeks ago, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a high-profile pipeline case. At issue is whether a state law granting control over the pipeline route to the governor’s office, and not the Public Service Commission, is constitutional.
Governor Heineman has already approved a controversial route and given TransCanada the right of eminent domain — the authority to force landowners to grant right of way for the construction of the pipeline. So long as the route through Nebraska is unclear, President Obama is expected to delay his final decision.

TransCanada’s permit has also expired in South Dakota, where groups continue to pressure the Public Utility Commission there to reject TransCanada’s application.

Forward on Climate

#NoKXL D.C. protest, credit Flickr user John Duffy

In February 2013, over 50,000 people came together on the National Mall to urge the Obama administration to reject Keystone XL and take action on climate change. It is the largest U.S. action on climate change, though the march in New York will eclipse it.

Circling the White House


Circle the White House Protest,
credit Tar Sands Action Flickr

In November of 2011, thousands of protesters from across the country joined hands and encircled the White House to send the message to President Obama to block KXL.

Civil Disobedience


Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA,
at White House civil disobedience,
credit Wikimedia Commons

Over 2,000 activists have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience against Keystone XL, demonstrating their commitment to ensuring the pipeline is not built.
Over 95,000 people have pledged to risk arrest if President Obama approves the pipeline.

Direction Action in Texas

Texas Tar Sands blockade, credit Flickr user Elizabeth Brossa

Groups in Texas have taken direct action to block tar sands infrastructure. Though these actions were peaceful, police have at times responded by attacking protesters with tasers and pepper spray.

It is because of the activists that have turned out to protests, risked arrest, and stood in front of bulldozers that Keystone XL remains un-built.   Thanks to their commitment millions of barrels of tar sands have already been kept in the ground. Six years later, the fight to stop Keystone XL has become a powerful movement for climate action—and the committed activists who power it give us every reason to celebrate today. 

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