Friday, September 19 marks six years that climate activists have blocked TransCanada's attempts to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Opposition to the pipeline has galvanized a national movement that unites environmentalists, indigenous groups, farmers, ranchers, and landowners; since 2008, more than 2,000 activists have gotten arrested in tar sands protests and over 50,000 have rallied against the proposal in Washington, D.C.
Close to two million metric tons of carbon pollution has been left underground as a result of the anti-pipeline mobilization, according to a release sent out by a coalition that includes 350.org, Bold Nebraska, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oil Change International, and the Energy Action Coalition.
"For six years family farmers and ranchers have stood up to TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation, as they tried to bully and swindle us for our land," Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb told Common Dreams. "Every day the pipe is not in our water is a victory for our livelihoods."
"Companies that wish to pollute our climate and threaten the health of millions of citizens in the pursuit of fossil fuels now have a fight on their hands, from teachers, native tribes and nations, farmers, nurses, scientists, students; activists all."
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth
As thousands gather in New York City for the People's Climate March, the timing couldn't be better, said Jamie Henn, 350.org co-founder and strategy and communications director.
"It's grassroots organizing that's stopped the Keystone XL pipeline for the last six years," he told Common Dreams. "We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary than by bringing over 100,000 people together in the streets of New York City this Sunday to call for climate action. The fossil fuel industry has all the money, but we've got the boots on the ground. And the boots are winning."
Friends of the Earth’s president Erich Pica said the Keystone fight has changed the landscape for climate organizing. "Before Keystone XL, a new fossil fuel infrastructure project was fait accompli," he said.
But things have changed, Pica declared:
Americans are fed up with dirty air and water as well as being second-class citizens to corporate profits. Across the United States, ordinary people are challenging pipelines, rail expansions, port expansions and liquefied natural gas facilities. Companies that wish to pollute our climate and threaten the health of millions of citizens in the pursuit of fossil fuels now have a fight on their hands, from teachers, native tribes and nations, farmers, nurses, scientists, students; activists all. President Obama, the will of the people is clear: It’s not enough to delay this pipeline—it’s time to deny it.
Of course, not everyone is happy for the six-year delay. On Monday, the U.S. Chamber's Energy Institute kicked off their Keystone XL "Lost Opportunities Tour," to highlight how the delay in pipeline approval has allegedly cost the U.S. jobs and profits.
A State Department review made public earlier this year found that while completion of the project would create about 2,000 short-term construction jobs, actually running the pipeline would provide just 50 long-term positions. In addition, TransCanada's chief executive said Thursday that he expects the cost of the project to double by the time the U.S. government completes its review.
The State Department said in April it won't make a final decision on the pipeline until the resolution of a Nebraska state Supreme Court case, which questions a state law that approved the pipeline's route through that state. That may not happen until the end of this year or early 2015.