In an interview with CNN Money, former Vice President Al Gore says the role of money in U.S. politics is “kind of pitiful,” but he seems optimistic about a government response to climate change. “Mother Nature has been speaking loudly and persuasively,” he says. “These extreme weather events that are connected to the climate crisis have captured the attention of people.”
By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
OK, book lovers, locavores, gardeners and survivalists, listen up! Nike says “Just Do It” and permaculturalist Rob Hopkins says “Just Do Stuff.”
Both have the same message, ‘Don’t wait’. Climate change is urgent. Finding our path to sustainability, urgent. Cleaning up the planet. It’s all got to happen quickly.
And, to borrow another catchphrase, it takes a village.
Also our elected, appointed and anointed leaders cannot do it alone, and as we an plainly see, some of them are not doing much at all.
Persuaded yet? Hopkins hopes to pull you in with his book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff: How Local Action Can Change the World.
We haven’t read it yet (we will), but his rallying cry, which is a little bit like think globally, act locally, but more like think locally and also act locally, calls upon us all to get started in small ways, wherever we are, on building Earth 2.0. Here’s the promotional video for the book:
Hopkins’s previous work has been co-founding a “Transition Town” in Ireland, and writing The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependence to Local Resilience and The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times.
You can meet Hopkins, who normally hangs at home in Ireland, at various stops in the U.S. this fall, including at SXSWEco in Austin Oct. 7-9. Oddly enough, SXSWEco last year hosted Annie Leonard, famous for her work, The Story of Stuff.
Here’s Hopkins’ schedule:
New Orleans (10/1-10/2) for the Environmental Grantmakers Association Retreat (private) and a public event at Tulane University
Boston (10/3) at Tufts University
Portland, ME (10/4) as a Featured Speaker on the eve of the New England Transition Gathering & Resilience HUB Regional Gathering
Houston (10/8) for a Sustainable Houston Town Hall at Rice University
Austin (10/9) as a distinguished speaker at SXSW Eco Conference (Transitioners can purchase discounted tickets using code “reg-eco-mark13_nt5x9ht676″)
San Francisco/North Bay (10/10-12) with Gopal Dayaneni for a public talk in Oakland, and as a keynote speaker at the Building Resilient Communities: Northern California Transition & Permaculture Convergence.
Milwaukee (10/15-16) for the Brew City Abundance Tour and Bash with Mayor Tom Barrett
Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network
Carl Sagan was the featured speaker at the Interparliamentary Conference on the Global Environment in 1990. More than 40 countries met to discuss strategies on key issues on the environment. (Posted by the Film Archives)
CNN Money reports that former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says the federal government has to take proactive steps to combat the effects of climate change.
Whitman served as the 50th Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, and was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003.
Green Right Now Reports
In his first major policy address since taking over at the Department of Energy, Dr. Ernest J. Moniz sought to explain the administration’s “all of the above” energy plan and answered critics who accuse Obama supporting natural gas development despite concerns that fracking contaminates air and water.
You can see Moniz’ hour-plus full talk Monday at Columbia University here, or read the synopsis of the highlights below.
The topic actually didn’t come up until the end of the address, when the moderator explained that about half of the question cards turned in by the audience dealt with hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a hugely controversial topic in New York and elsewhere where citizens are worried about the effects of intensive fracking operations on community water supplies and local air quality. Residents living near intensively fracked areas have reported problems with well water as well as skin rashes and respiratory issues.
Asked what the role for natural gas should be in the new energy economy, Moniz was clear that it has its place.
“It is a fact that in these last years, the natural gas revolution as they say has been a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions,” he said.
About half of the progress so far toward reducing overall U.S. carbon emissions under the Obama Administration has been due to the substitution of natural gas for coal in power plants, he continued.
“In my previous life at MIT when we did a study on natural gas, if you asked the question up front — is natural gas a part of the problem or part of the solution for climate change? — we reached the conclusion that yes, that certainly in the near term and potentially for some years out, this substitution of natural gas for coal combustion, without carbon capture [for coal], would be a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions.”
Down the road if the U.S. is really cracking down on carbon emissions that might change, he said, then “gas itself would have to have carbon capture or it would be too carbon intensive.”
Asked about fracking’s methane gas emissions, which are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, Moniz noted that these could be captured and put to use, and that an Obama-decreed task force of multiple federal agencies would be looking at the problem of methane gas leakage from hydraulic fracturing.
The “War on Coal”
The administration has had to walk a fine line on fossil fuels, on the one hand supporting natural gas for reducing carbon emissions by replacing coal (and also cracking down on pollution from coal-fired power plants) and on the other hand, arguing that it has not launched a “war on coal.”
Moniz stayed on the tight rope.
Directing the EPA to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants was Obama ‘s best open route to bring down the carbon emissions that are driving climate change, he said.
“It is the most significant step the president can take with executive action, absent legislative action, but the charges of it being a ’war on coal’ is a misunderstanding or a misstatement of what is being called the all-of-the-above approach to US energy.”
The All-of-the-Above Energy Plan
In addition to addressing criticism from the right that the administration has started a war on coal, Moniz addressed critics on the left who quibble that Obama’s oft-described “all of the above” energy plan is soft on fossil fuels.
“The idea is that ‘allof the above’ means we will invest in the technology, research and demonstration so that all of our energy sources can be enabled as market place competitors in a low carbon energy world.”
“That’s what we mean by all of the above”
But while fossil fuels are included in the “all of the above” vision, it’s a plan that still begins with the core goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels, he said.
Moniz also suggested that in a nation dependent on transportation, which is largely dependent upon oil, would be foolish not to challenge the fossil fuel industry to come up with its own lower carbon solutions.
U.S. policymakers, he said, must be “pragmatic” and “practical”.
On Climate Change
“I’m not here to debate what’s not debatable. The evidence is overwhelming, the science is clear, certainly clear for the level that one needs for policy making in terms of the real and urgent threat of climate change. . . .”
“Prudence demands strong commonsense near term policy actions to minimize the risks of global warming and that’s what the president’s Climate Action plan does in the absence of legislative remedies.”
Moniz waxed hopeful, and sounded most passionate, discussing green energy technologies.
U.S. wind power, he noted, had tripled in capacity since 2008, accounting for 44 percent of new electricity capacity in 2012 and dropping in price to a “levelized” 6 cents per kilowatt.
Solar PV modules, he said, cost about 1 percent of what they did 30 years ago and utility-scale solar is creating a disruptive, but positive force on the grid.
LED lights have advanced with lightning speed and offer a lifetime savings of $100 for every incandescent 60 watt bulb they replace.
“The future,” Moniz said, “may not always be 10 years away.”
Whether or not you believe a global food crisis is looming as humans continue to test earth’s ability to provide, you’re likely to be intrigued by some of the fascinating solutions being proposed to relieve pressures on traditional agriculture.
One idea that’s taken root, though not necessarily in the soil, involves building vertical farms in urban centers by employing hydroponics and aeroponics — growing edibles without soil or pesticides — by creatively using spaces already available within the urban environment.
Dr. Dickson Despommier, a Columbia University professor, has been developing and promoting this idea, with fascinating results in various places, including just down the road in upstate New York.
Inspired by Dr. Despommier, who was a visiting professor, and the possibilities of “productive technologies” and “growing facades,” a team of students at Cornell University created an urban agriculture wall that is an art installation, lighting solution, indoor herb garden and homage to recycling.
The Hydroponic Bottle Wall, installed at Stella’s Bar and Restaurant in Ithaca this past spring, is both “productive” and beautiful. It shows how urban design can help push sustainability forward.
Fourth-year architecture students Peter Gudonis, Carly Dean and Nicholas Cassab-Gheta designed and built the wall, with funding from the Cornell Council for the Arts, Stella’s Bar and Restaurant and GreenTree.
The 8 x 6 foot wall (made of plywood) holds 24 used red wine bottles, which are filled with clay pellets (the soil substitute) and irrigated from a system behind the wall. A grow light, which doubles as lighting for Stella’s lower bar, completes the system.
This demonstration project shows how even a small-scale installation, made from all local and recycled products, can help augment local food supplies. The restaurant, which already focuses on local and sustainable foods, uses the mint, chives and basil grown on the wall in food dishes and drinks.
From Green Right Now Reports
Nancy’s Gone Green, based in Framingham, Mass., is just one of many eco-friendly clothing boutiques that are springing up across the U.S., offering one-of-a-kind designs you won’t find in chain stores.
We stumbled on them via Green America, which is highlighting 10 green clothiers who are finalists for this summer’s “People & Planet Award.” The contestants are all green businesses that operate with an ethical supply chain (i.e., they don’t use sweatshops). The winner will be chosen by online viewers who can vote here.
All of the companies seem deserving, so vote for your favorite one.
We’re highlighting Nancy’s Gone Green because we liked how they are selling vintage, upcycled and new clothing. Their green ambitions seem to know no bounds, as we found out when we spoke with Mary Savoca, who with her mom, Nancy Savoca, has been wrapped up in the vintage and green clothing scene for the past six years. The mother-daughter team own the company, which sells locally and online.
Tell me about your design aesthetics, your core focus?
“As you saw from our site we’re definitely eclectic. We draw insipiration from a lot of different places, but in general I think what we’re trying to do is to defy what a lot of poeple think of when they think of green products. So, a lot of people envision a lot of beige and brown and things that are really neutral, kind of loose fitting, plain kind of clothing, and for us we’re really going for REALLY FUN bright colors, really well fitted flattering clothes that are on trend, not trendy, because trendy isn’t really eco-friendly, those are throwaway clothes”
“We’re looking for things that are really flattering, generally pretty feminine that’s kind of our aesthetic and bright colors, fun prints that people may not think of when they think of green fashion.
Do you think people still think of green fashion as that off-white T-shirt with a logo on it?
“There’s a growing community of people who realize that you don’t have to sacrifice style to wear green fashion, but I think the larger public still sees it as overpriced, ugly, potato-sack clothes and it really isn’t anymore. We’re trying to create something that’s really appealing to everyone, even some poeple who are not as tuned in to the green movement as we are and our customers are. That’s really our ultiamte goal is to pull in people who really haven’t thought about this sort of thing before because they love the products, and then have them say ‘Oh wow, it’s organic and it’s fair trade and it’s not even that expensive! This is great why don’t I buy all my clothes this way. That’s really our goal in everything we do.”
So how did you decide to form a company with your mom?
“When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I had started selling a lot of clothes on eBay, used clothes, vintage clothes. We’ve always been really into hunting for vintage clothing. So we got started with the vintage, we really loved it and we were making money. So I of got the entrepreneur bug and really wanted to start soemthign together with my mom. So we started to get serious about the vintage clothing and see it as a real business and in time it evolved to a point in time where we wanted to be selling not just one of a kind items, but something that came in more quantities. It made sense to do eco-friendly clothing because it went right in line with the recycling concepts we were already doing.
Then my mom’s line, Re:awakened, which is an upcycled clothing collection, it’s kind of the halfway point (between vintage and new eco-clothing) because what she does is she takes either vintage fabric or gently used fabric and reworks it into new designs. So she’s sort of crosing into an area inbetween our vintage clothing and the new green clothing.
One thing that’s very interesting about your business is that you have this range of vintage clothing and then a mix of offerings, new and upcycled. Who designs the new clothing that you’re retailing?
The new stuff, if you just go to clothing on our site, the new stuff is done by several dozen designers that we work with. So we’re working with a lot of Fair Trade Cooperatives, that are either working with organic fabrics or recycled fabrics. There’s a lot of really exciting things that are happening now with recycled polyester. That’s one of the fabrics that’s getting really big.
But we work with mostly global, Fair Trade coops, and right now we’re trying to connect a lot more with Made in the USA workshops and we’re making connections with very local producers, which is exciting. Because a lot of the American eco-fashion is prohibitively expensive. And most of it is not eco-friendly, there may be a line that’s organic, but it’s very small and very limited.
For me, when I’ve been looking for Made in the USA eco-lines, there are lines that are selling an luxury T-shirt for $160 or whatever and we just can’t sell that, to almost everyone. And we’re not interested in seeking out the customers who are willing pay $160 for a product. We want to sell to regular people. We’re looking for products that a regular person that can buy and get behind.
Is it hard competing in the clothing market, generally, against corporations that pay low wages and operate on volumes with low margins? How do you compete?
I have to say that most of our customers right now are already convinced that the eco and fair labor products are what they want to buy. But we see a lot of opportunity in creating unique designs that you can’t buy anywhere else…Clothing with block printing or embroidery, stuff you cannot find at the mall.
And our prices aren’t that high! Our tops are under $50 and most of our dresses are under $100. We can’t compete with H&M or Walmart.
But you’re selling a different product than what those stores offer? Yes.
You want to sell an ethical and green product; that encompasses a lot, how do you accomplish this goal?
Becoming a member of Green America was really helpful. That helped us figure out the 360 degrees of becoming an ethical company…It’s not just the material we’re using and the labor. It includes trying to be more local.
We also always looking for things that use organic fabric or recycled fabric or natural materials, like among our accessories, there’s jewelry made from nuts and seeds and recycled metals….
Then in terms of the labor side of things, everything is either made in the U.S. or follows fair labor practices. For the fair labor aspect of it, a lotof designers are fair trade certified, and we have a close relationship with them. Some of the smaller producers are taking steps in that direction. They’re maybe too small to be certified but they care for their workers and believe in paying a living wage.
What can you tell us about your moves toward using more local producers?
We ourselves are looking at doing some local production here in Boston. There’s a lot of it already in New York City and LA. Hyperlocal is something we’re getting very excited about. We have a vision of New England becoming a center for eco-friendly production.
What we’re working on are basically some creative designs that are really modern. We’re again looking for interesting colors, prints and shapes that flatter a woman’s body. A lot of this will be happening in the spring.
From Green Right Now Reports
Texas researchers have found elevated levels of arsenic and selenium in drinking water near gas drilling sites in the Barnett Shale, according to a peer-reviewed study published this month in Environmental Science & Technology.
The team, experts in biology and biochemistry, sampled water from 100 private water wells in North Texas and found the highest levels of the toxic metals – in some cases levels above what’s considered safe by the EPA – in the wells closest to gas drilling operations, according to the study by University of Texas Arlington researchers.
The metals they were testing for – arsenic, selenium and strontium – can occur naturally in water. But the team pointed to the trend of higher levels being found closest to active gas wells as suggesting that the industrial activity could have released chemicals into the groundwater feeding the wells.
According to a release about the study from the university:
“Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the hydraulic fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater.”
UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug led the team of researchers. Dr. Brian Fontenot, whose degree is in quantitative biology, was lead author on the paper.
“This study alone can’t conclusively identify the exact causes of elevated levels of contaminants in areas near natural gas drilling, but it does provide a powerful argument for continued research,” said Fontenot, a UT Arlington graduate.
The team gathered the samples in 2011 from a 13-county area in North Texas, where gas companies have been drilling, fracking, for natural gas for several years.
Most of the samples, 91, were taken near active drilling areas with one or more gas wells within a five kilometer radius. Nine control samples were taken from sites more than 14 kilometers from a natural gas drilling operation, in or outside the Barnett Shale region which spans the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
The water composition was compared to historical records covering the 20th Century and analyzed by gas chromatography at the UT Arlington Shimadzu Center for Advance Analytical Chemistry.
Tests showed that 29 of the water wells that were near active gas drilling exceeded the EPA’s EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic. One water sample was contaminated with 161 micrograms per liter — 16 times the EPA’s MCL for drinking water.
Longterm exposure to unsafe levels of arsenic in water “has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver and prostate,” according to the EPA’s arsenic info sheet.
Other findings reported by the team:
- 10 samples taken from near gas well activity showed selenium levels higher than the historical average. Two samples exceeded the EPA’s safety standard for selenium, which can cause negative health effects if consumed at levels considered unsafe.
- Strontium, found in almost all the samples, was “significantly higher” than historical levels in the areas of natural gas extraction. Seventeen samples from the gas drilling areas and one from outside the active gas drilling area exceeded the safe level of 4,000 micrograms per liter set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Exposure to higher than recommended levels of strontium is believed to impair bone growth in children, according to the agency.
The areas outside of active drilling sites, or outside the Barnett Shale, did not show elevated levels for most of the metals.
Researchers also found traces of the man-made solvent methanol and ethanol in nearly one-third of the water samples.
Other leaders of the team were Laura Hunt, who conducted her post-doctoral research in biology at UT Arlington, and Zacariah Hildenbrand, who earned his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Texas at El Paso and performed post-doctoral research at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Hildenbrand is also the founder of Inform Environmental, LLC. Fontenot and Hunt work for the EPA regional office in Dallas, but the study is unaffiliated with the EPA and each received permission to work on the water contamination project outside the agency, according to UT Arlington, a campus of about 33,000 students located between Dallas and Fort Worth.
From Green Right Now Reports
Nearly 100 bicyclists, most of them arborists and forestry experts, will ride around Lake Ontario next week to spread the message that trees are worth cherishing and must be cared for properly.
The 2013 STIHL Tour des Trees, a rolling event that raises money for the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund has been going since 1992. Each year, groups of tree professionals head out on a tree-lined tour to both raise awareness and plant trees.
This year’s route will take the cyclists along 585 miles from Niagara Falls to Toronto, with stops along the way in Rochester, Syracuse and several Canadian communities. Along the way, the participates will conduct plantings and community events to promote urban forests.
One stop will feature the City of Rochester’s program for protecting its ash trees from the deadly Emerald Ash Borer; another will incorporate a presentation on research on the American chestnut trees underway at State University of New York College o Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF).
To catch up with the tree tour, which has raised around $6 million since it began in 1992, visit the website of the STIHL Tour des Trees.
In addition to highlighting the value of trees, the benefit raises money for tree research and scholarships for aspiring tree care professionals. It is the single largest fundraiser for tree research, according to organizers, and has underwritten hundreds of grants advancing arboriculture, urban forestry and safety for practitioners.
The tour kicks off July 27 and winds up August 3 at Ontario’s Toronto Island, which hosts the International Tree Climbing Competition and Arbor Fair.
Chainsaw and equipment maker STIHL is the title sponsor. Several other groups donate to support the event.
From Green Right Now Reports
Six women climbed London’s tallest building, the glitzy, 310-meter-tall “Shard,” on Thursday to protest Shell Oil’s plans to drill in the Arctic.
Greenpeace, known for staging dramatic protests to draw attention to environmental issues, arranged the daring climb, which took 15 hours.
The women safely reached the top of the glassy skyscraper, which houses Shell Oil’s London headquarters, about 7:30 p.m. on July 11. They were met by police and arrested for trespassing, but not before they posted pictures and tweeted from their perch atop the city.
The climbers, in their 20s and 3os, had trained for the climb for several weeks, according to The Guardian, which also reported that the women were so exhausted at the end, they took naps afterward in their jail cells before being questioned by police.
Greenpeace reported on the dramatic protest action in real time on the Internet and from the group’s radio channel. The video here is a portion of the group’s reporting.
By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
President Barack Obama delivered a pointed speech on climate change today, which suggested that the Keystone XL pipeline will not be automatically approved and drilled down on the biggest source of carbon emissions, power plants.
The highlight of The President’s Climate Action Plan, unveiled before an audience at Georgetown University, will be a move by the EPA to set limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the president said.
This type of pollution accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, and yet it has never been regulated because the U.S. Supreme Court only recently ruled that carbon pollution fell under the Clean Air Act.
“I’m directing the EPA to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution” from (mainly) coal-fired power plants, Obama told the Georgetown audience and those listening into a live stream.
The move to tamp down coal emissions delighted environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, which has made coal pollution a major focus in recent years.
“The Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters issued a collective cheer as they heard the President declare that the most effective defense against climate disruption will be by tackling the biggest source of carbon pollution: coal plants,” Sierra said in a statement.
Obama stressed that this action, and other moves toward a clean energy economy, does not mean that jobs will be lost.
Critics, he said, always predict that environmental protections will “crush the economy.
“That’s what they say every time America sets better standards for our water and air….and every time they’ve been wrong,” he said.
The president did give a nod to the “cleaner” energy from natural gas that some cities and states are switching to, a point that’s hugely contentious with anti-fracking forces, who say natural gas extraction takes too high of a toll on water resources.
But Obama spent more time explaining how the U.S. can get more energy efficient by using renewables, such as wind and solar power, and continuing to make and use more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
At a couple junctures, he expressed frustration with the opponents to change, saying that the climate crisis “is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now.”
He has no time, he said, for climate skeptics, who argue that there’s no need to mitigate or prepare for climate change.
“I don’t have much patience for anybody who denies this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” Obama said.
The naysayers who worry that a shift away from fossil fuels will hurt the economy have it wrong, he said.
“The problem with all these tired excuses for lack of action is it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American businesses.”
Don’t bet against Americans, he said, they’ll figure a way, and “don’t tell us we have to choose between our health and our economy.”
“We have to look after our children, we have to look after our future and grow jobs and the economy. We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future, we seize it.”
Obama threw climate activists a surprise, when he signaled that the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not necessarily a done deal.
The pipeline, currently under construction in Canada and the U.S., will not be approved unless it is shown to be “in the national interest,” Obama said. And if it raises carbon emissions “significantly” it won’t be.
Climate activists have been fighting the transcontinental project because it will enable vast quantities of energy intensive tar sands oil from Canada’s vast oil sands fields to enter the world market, sustaining fossil fuel economies and raising carbon emissions.
350.org founder and well-known environmentalist Bill McKibben said afterward that Obama seems to be taking a reasoned approach to the pipeline.
It “makes me think it’s more likely the White House will reject the Keystone Pipeline, which is the biggest environmental battle in a generation–the president is a logical man, and taking two steps forward only to take two back would make no sense,” McKibben said.
“The president’s remarks today on the Keystone XL pipeline are deeply encouraging,” said Green for All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins. “He’ll say no to the pipeline if it proves to not be in America’s interest, and it is not. The evidence is clear—the pipeline would contribute to climate change. Saying yes to Keystone would put the health and safety of our own communities at greater risk.
The president also piqued the interest of those who advocate divestiture in dirty fuels as a way to hasten the clean energy economy, when toward the end of the speech he urged Americans to advocate for green power by telling people it won’t take away jobs.
“Invest. Divest,” he said, an apparent reference to the movement to push colleges and cities to divest from coal and oil power, and invest in green energy.
Though it was roundly applauded, the president’s speech did not call out all issues on the environmental agenda. Sierra Club summed up the remaining business in its statement:
“There is still more work to be done. The President’s climate commitment and his speech today gives us great hope that he will finally address some of the remaining, worst abuses of the fossil fuel industry, including dirty and dangerous fracking, ending the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, halting destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, and overhauling the sweetheart deal on public lands that pads the bottom line of coal companies at public expense”
Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network
Nine protesters from the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance were arrested this morning, after at least eight members of the group locked themselves to construction equipment and a construction trailer at the site of a pump station being built in Seminole, OK, to service the Keystone XL pipeline.
The protesters locked themselves onto the equipment about dawn, a technique that’s been used by opponents of pipeline in Texas over the past nine months to try to slow construction of the controversial pipeline and express their concerns that the tar sands extraction is too environmentally costly to continue.
Within an hour, volunteer firefighters were sent in to unlock the protesters, using various tools, such as the Jaws of Life, protesters said.
Nine were arrested for trespassing and one veteran protester may have been injured in the scuffle. He was reportedly being treated in an ambulance at the site, protesters said.
The Great Plains group and another activist organization, Tar Sands Blockade, have staged several similar actions along the pipeline route, with has been cleared for construction on the southern leg through Oklahoma and Texas, but not through the Midwest. The groups, which include landowners whose property has been accessed for the pipeline, say the tar sands project risks too much ecological damage to be allowed to continue.
The pipeline, being constructed by TransCanada, is set to run 1,700 miles from tar sands fields in Alberta across the U.S. to refineries in the Houston region. It has not yet received a permit to cross the border from Canada, a contingency that requires U.S. State Department approval.
Actions against the pipeline are necessary to try to stop the damage it could bring to Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, “an area that has been historically sacrificed for the benefit of petroleum infrastructure and industry,” said Eric Whelan, a spokesman for Great Plains Resistance.
“In this country, over half of all pipeline spills happen in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Looking at the mainstream keystone opposition, this fact is invisible—just like the communities affected by toxic refining and toxic extraction,” he said. “We’re through with appealing to a broken political system that has consistently sacrificed human and nonhuman communities for the benefit of industry and capital.”
According to the GPTSR, the Tar Sands “megaproject” will spread or threaten pollution in many areas across North America, including:
- In Alberta, tar sands operations are destroying pristine boreal forests, which if fully realized, will leave behind a toxic wasteland the size of Florida. After the sticky oil sands are strip mined, they are diluted (converted to a thick mix of oil sands and chemicals called bitumen) and shipped out for further refining, in Oklahoma and Texas, before being sold on the world market.
- In Western Canada, where First Nations communities that live nearby the tar sands mines are left with poisoned waterways.
- In the American heartland, where tar sands spills, like the one at Mayflower, AR (under contract to Exxon not TransCanada), could damage farmland, communities and aquifers.
- Lands belonging to the Sioux Nation in South Dakota, which will be traversed by the intercontinental pipeline.
- Communities like Manchester, TX, in the Houston ship channel region, where residents already suffer respiratory ailments from industrial pollution related to ship channel activities.
“Tar sands infrastructure is toxic regardless of the corporation or pipeline. For that reason we are opposed not only to the Keystone XL, but all tar sands infrastructure that threatens the land and her progeny,” said Fitzgerald Scott, in a statement. Scott, who was arrested in April at a protest along the Keystone XL easement, and locked himself to an excavator today.
Monday’s action is part of a nationwide week of coordinated “anti-extraction action” under the banner of “Fearless Summer,” according to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance.