Yesterday we got some momentous news. President Obama announced that he was rejecting the application for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline! This has thrown a huge spanner in the works of the tar sands industry’s expansion plans, and delayed the possibility of large-scale export of tar sands oil to Europe, giving us more time to stop it.
This announcement follows a year in which the climate movement in the US came to life and mobilised opposition the length and breadth of the country, in partnership with indigenous peoples and local communities who would be affected by the mammoth project. The action peaked in September when over 1200 people were arrested for a rolling blockade of the White House. The protests worked, and Obama delayed the pipeline approval process for a year in order to look more carefully at its many impacts. The Republicans then forced his hand, imposing a 60 day deadline on him to make the decision, which resulted in yesterday’s out-and-out rejection of the proposal.
Of course the battle isn’t over. It never is. Obama has left the way open for TransCanada to come back with a proposal for an alternative route. Meanwhile, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline hearings are currently under way in Canada. However, we shouldn’t underestimate what a setback this is for the tar sands industry as a whole, and for pipeline-building in particular. Delays are costly and time-consuming, sap momentum and threaten the future viability of tar sands expansion. But far more importantly, people power has won an iconic battle against Big Oil and its political stooges. This can only strengthen our resolve to stop the world’s dirtiest oil whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head.
It has also, in the words of our friend George Poitras from the Mikisew Cree First Nation who live directly downstream from the tar sands, ‘given impacted, downstream communities a reprieve from out-of-control environmental destruction of Canada’s boreal forest.’ The KXL, explains George, ‘would have increased tar sands development by close to 1 million barrels per day from the current near 1.5 million barrels per day of production… What US President Barack Obama also doesn’t know is that today is the four year anniversary of the death of our youngest cancer victim. His Facebook memorial page is increasingly becoming swamped by young friends who continue to mourn his untimely death. He was 26 years old. He died of a soft tissue sarcoma cancer which is considered a very extremely rare and lethal cancer. What resonates today with President Obama’s denial is not the loss of the measly 20,000 jobs but rather the sustaining of a people, a culture, a way of life.’
So let’s take a moment to celebrate what could be a turning point in the epic story of the people vs the tar sands. We recommend watching this spine-tingling film of the rise of the anti-Keystone movement.
Yours cracking open the bubbly,
Jess, Sue and Emily
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