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Pipeline Protesters Urge Obama: 'Be A Climate Champion'

Ahead of the State of the Union, protesters call on President Obama to use address to "reject KXL"

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Environmental groups paraded a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol building Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union address. (photo: @erichpica/ Twitter)Green groups are calling on President Obama to make a choice: 'Be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president.'

Parading a 100-yard inflatable pipeline outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators are hoping to grab the president's attention ahead of the annual State of the Union address.

Organized by groups including 350.org and Friends of the Earth, the demonstration is calling on Obama to renew the pledge he made last year when he said he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if it is found to “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

“President Obama needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president. He can’t have it both ways,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director for 350.org.

He has "all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL and he should do so in the State of the Union," the groups added in a statement ahead of the action.

The demonstration comes within days of the anticipated release of the State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project, which Obama previously said he would look to for guidance on whether to permit the pipeline or not.

"Despite shoddy analysis by industry contractors working for the State Department, there is no doubt that approving Keystone XL would have a dramatic impact on the climate and should be rejected immediately by President Obama as not serving the national interest," the groups continued, referencing a previously released draft of the SEIS which was condemned by both scientists and green groups as "deeply flawed."

"The State of the Union would be an excellent time to reject the project and embrace a clean energy future," they add.

Last week, the lesser known southern leg of the Keystone XL began operating, carrying tar sands from its northern terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether or not the Keystone XL is approved, the enormous upswell in opposition to the project has "changed American environmental politics," according to a piece published Friday in the New York Times.

Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:

Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.

"I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told the Times. "'And then, bam!' Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House."

During Tuesday's demonstration, 350.org founder Bill McKibben reiterated the power of the KXL opposition:

Twitter users chronicled the action using the hashtags #nokxl and #climateSOTU:

 

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