PITTSBURGH — Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline outlined new plans for persuading President Barack Obama to reject the project at a conference for young climate activists here over the weekend. And while most organizers continued to express optimism that the administration would not allow TransCanada to complete the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, they are preparing for the likelihood that the project will win approval.
If the State Department’s National Interest Determination finds in favor of the pipeline — virtually the last hurdle before approval — demonstrators will risk arrest at more than 100 protests in 37 states, said Todd Zimmer, a campaigner with Rainforest Action Network who helped develop new training and recruitment guidelines for such direct action against Keystone XL. As of Monday, nearly 76,000 people have pledged to engage in “dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The protests at the State Department and other federal offices around the country could come within a week of the national interest announcement, Zimmer said, and actions may also take place at TransCanada offices and those of Environmental Resources Management, the consulting firm whose findings that Keystone XL would have minimal environmental impact have been called into question by opponents.
On Sunday, as part of a two-hour presentation about Keystone XL at Power Shift, a gathering of almost 8,000 mostly college-age climate activists, organizers also encouraged local groups to make “climate time capsules.”
The red tubes, filled with artifacts of local climate efforts, would most likely be presented in Washington in mid-November, and organizers hope to bury some of them along the planned Keystone XL route.
If Obama wants to build the pipeline, said Kendall Mackey of the Energy Action Coalition, “he’s going to have to dig up our climate legacy and bury his own.”
But the activists tended to be less optimistic than the organizers. T.R. McKenzie, who works with the Deep Roots United Front in Jefferson, S.D., said the national organizations “need to stop thinking that petitions and other ways of symbolic action” are going to prevent Keystone XL.