Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’…

Dear Tar Sands Troopers,

Since our last newsletter there has been an array of good, bad and confusing news. We’re waiting with bated breath the outcome of Keystone XL Pipeline and the EU Fuel Quality Directive – we will keep you updated as soon as news arrives.

It’s now coming to the end of a mammoth year of tar sands activism. Thanks to everyone who has helped fight the fight, be it by telling your neighbours about tar sands, withdrawing your funds from RBS, or putting your body in the way of the dominating powers. If you want a reminder of what we’ve been up to this year, have a look on our blog. Over the next few week we’ll still be on twitter and facebook so keep an eye out.

One more thing: tackling the tar monster costs money. With more help from our supporters we will be able to do bigger and better things: we are already planning our AGM attack strategy. We have just set up a new webpage with details of how to donate. The best Christmas present would be if people would set up regular donations, although one-off donations are much appreciated too. We don’t have a lot of dosh, and are experts at making the smallest amounts go a long way. If you’d rather offer your time, that would be equally amazing – just let us know.

The Good:
1. Shell faces legal challenge from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
2. Tar Sands and bananas don’t mix

The Bad:
3. Canada pulls out of Kyoto
4. BP confirms sponsorship of cultural institutions

The Confusing:
5. Keystone victory muddied
6. FQD vote delayed – more time to continue the battle

We hope you all have a well-deserved break and are ready for a lot more tar-sands-ass-kicking next year!
Emily and Sue

1. Shell faces legal challenge from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN)
On 30th November we served papers to Shell UK executives in solidarity with ACFN. The community is suing Shell for its failure to meet contractual agreements affecting ACFN traditional territory and Canada’s pristine Athabasca River. This action comes at significant risk to the community given that many are  employed by Shell and alternative means of employment are rare. The AFCN campaign not only seeks compensation  for the community, but to halt new Shell developments, undermining Shell’s tar sands portfolio and overall reputation. The assertion of Aboriginal treaty rights is a key opportunity to stop future tar sands developments, and from the UK we are providing as much support as we can for the community.

Keep up to date with the campaign on the community’s website and our new Shell campaign page.

2. Tar Sands and bananas don’t mix
Chiquita, a massive US banana company, has decided to stop using tar sands oil. We know this is a step in the right direction as it has put the wind up astroturf oil lobby front group ethicaloil.org who have started a new website calling for a boycott of the banana giant… A quick reminder, if you’d forgotten, TAR SANDS ARE NOT ETHICAL! Well done to Forest Ethics for their work on this case.

3. Canada pulls out of Kyoto
If the Durban climate talks weren’t depressing enough, Canada finished it off nicely with a smug withdrawal from any legally binding climate commitments under the next period of Kyoto. But there was some light-hearted relief at Durban when our friends from IEN gave delegates to the U.N. climate talks mock gift bags containing samples of fake tar sands along with tourism brochures for Canada and Canadian flags. And it does seem that the world is starting to wake up to Canada’s cover-up of the damage caused by tar sands.

4. BP confirms sponsorship of cultural institutions
More bad news came this week when BP confirmed another £10 million of funding for Britain’s leading arts institutions – with Tate Director Nicholas Serota claiming he’d “been thinking very hard” and “it was the right thing to continue with BP”.

However a hidden victory lies in just how contentious an issue oil sponsorship has now become, with the debate growing out of the fringes into the mainstream. BP’s sponsorship of the Olympics will become the major focus in coming months, with a coalition of groups challenging the hypocrisy of the climate tycoon’s fortuitous label as ‘Sustainability Partner’. We have begun dismantling their greenwash here and here. Art Not Oil is also coordinating a call-out for artistic responses to BP’s Olympic sponsorship.

5. Keystone victory muddied
In what was widely hailed as the environmental victory of the year, Obama decided to postpone the decision to build the Keystone XL pipeline until early 2013. But politics got in the way, with Obama deciding to sacrifice the Keystone delay to protect a tax-cut for low-to-middle-class Americans.

As the latest update from tarsandsaction.org explains:

“The Senate, with the White House’s consent, passed a payroll tax cut plan with a rider attached that would have forced a speedy review of Keystone. That sounds bad — except that administration spokesmen said quite bluntly that if they were forced to do a quick review they’d deny the permit.
That sounds good — except that now the Tea Party caucus in the House has decided they don’t want the payroll tax cut, and they do want the Senate to come back to DC for more talks, and…you get the drift. At least for the moment, Keystone is flotsam on the unchartable tides of DC politics.”

For now, there’s not a lot we can be doing, except wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’…

6. FQD vote delayed – more time to continue the battle
The Fuel Quality Directive – legislation that would strongly discourage tar sands from entering the UK – was meant to be voted on by member states on 5th December. For undisclosed reasons the vote was instead postponed until some time in February, giving both sides time to escalate their campaigns. The Canadian lobbying has continued with another Alberta minister heading here to promote tar sands, which we weren’t too happy about. On the other side, our friends at the Council of Canadians has been busy finding that despite their government’s whining, Canadians actually support the FQD!

In the UK, Norman Baker is still claiming to be an ‘environmentalist’ but refusing to support the current form of the FQD. Fellow Lib Dems Chris Davies MEP and Catherine Bearder MEP have been vocal in their criticism of Baker’s position. Anything you can do to keep the pressure on Baker is much appreciated, and of course we promise to keep you updated!

Call to end Canadian Lobbying of European Climate Policy

Monday 19th December – for immediate release

A coalition of organisations [1] is calling on the Canadian government to stop sending spokespeople to interfere in EU legislation. Alberta’s Minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Relations Cal Dallas has travelled to France, Switzerland and now the United Kingdom [2] to repeat Canada’s arguments that the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) [3] discriminates against Canada’s tar sands. [4]

“Canadian tar sands are not getting attention in the EU because we want to discriminate against them or sabotage the Canadian economy,” said UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal. “Canada is receiving this attention because of the unprecedented attempts to undermine democratic climate legislation, and the gravity of the environmental destruction and human rights violations taking place to extract tar sands in Canada.”

The tour was announced three days after an EU member state vote on the current draft of the FQD was postponed, giving the Canadian government another six weeks to try to convince European oil sympathisers that tar sands should not be given a separate value in the directive. [5]

Emily Coats, also from the UK Tar Sands Network, said, “A sensible way of reining in one of the world’s dirtiest industries is being scuppered by the interests of the oil industry and Canadian government. Just last week, Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, severely tarnishing the government’s climate credentials. The Canadian government really isn’t where the UK should be turning for advice.”

Dallas’s trip is also focusing on “growing Alberta’s presence” in the European energy market. [6] Last week the minister participated in the World Trade Organization (WTO) policy meetings to discuss the “Doha Round” of negotiations, and today will meet the Deputy High Commissioner of Canada to discuss efforts to ‘promote Alberta in the UK’. [7]

“People are fed up by the ridiculous greenwash being spouted by these ministers,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “The suggestion that tar sands could be considered ‘responsible energy production’ [8] is ludicrous. Tar sands exploitation is harming First Nations and local communities and accelerating us towards irreversible climate change. The UK government should be supporting the FQD and phasing out tar sands financing, not developing radical new trade avenues with Alberta.” [9]

Contact UK Tar Sands Network for further comments

[1] Organisations include: UK Tar Sands Network, Council of Canadians, The Indigenous Environmental Network and People and Planet.
[2] http://www.alberta.ca//acn/201112/316601EC50941-9E6B-F2AA-8492049FEBA1EECC.html
[3] The FQD will reduce the EU’s emissions from transport by 6% by 2020 by assigning an average value of greenhouse gas intensity to each fuel type. The FQD in its current form, based on independent science and officially approved by the EU Commission, assigns tar sands with a higher average greenhouse gas value than conventional crude. It assigns even higher values to fuels such as oil shale and coal-to-liquid.
[4] See www.no-tar-sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands
[5] This trip marks a long line of visits to the UK designed to label the legislation as ‘discriminatory’ and ‘unscientific’.http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/16/us-tarsands-idUSTRE7BF1DG20111216 Most recently, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was sent to LSE to give a public lecture pushing the future of tar sands and speaking out against the Fuel Quality Directive. See www.vancouversun.com/business/Minister+challenged+British+students+during+oilsands+tour/5581538/story.html See also http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2011/FOEE_Report_Tar_Sands_Lobby_Final_July82011.pdf for more examples of lobbying.
[6]  In recent months the UK opened a trade office in Alberta and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to Canada to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper in September. See http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/keep-alberta-oil-off-your-hands-environmentalists-warn-british-pm/article2175933/
[7] http://www.alberta.ca//acn/201112/316601EC50941-9E6B-F2AA-8492049FEBA1EECC.html
[8] “Dallas will also meet with the Deputy High Commissioner of Canada and the Alberta United Kingdom Office to discuss Alberta’s commitment to responsible energy production.” See http://www.alberta.ca//acn/201112/316601EC50941-9E6B-F2AA-8492049FEBA1EECC.html
[9] The UK government’s position is currently aligned with Canada’s, with Norman Baker coming under fire from local, national, and international protesters to change his position. See http://www.no-tar-sands.org/2011/11/baker-targeted-by-constituents-for-blocking-climate-action/

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation sues Shell for tar sands destruction


November 30th, 2011

London – On the eve of the 17th COP of the UNFCCC, the world’s climate summit, the UK Tar Sands Network will serve papers to Shell UK executives on behalf of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). ACFN plans to sue Shell for failure to meet contractual agreements made between Shell and the First Nations regarding existing tar sands projects within ACFN traditional territory and Canada’s pristine Athabasca, a UNESCO heritage site. Later today, Chief Allan Adam along with the entire council of ACFN will rally outside Shell Canada corporate headquarters in downtown Calgary and hold a press conference.

After years of agreements with Shell Oil, the Athabasca Chipewyan people have decided to risk everything by challenging Shell’s practices and filing suit. “We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed,” stated Chief Adam.

The agreements in question were meant to ensure Shell would provide a number of measures to lessen the impact of tar sands mines on ACFN. In addition to the lawsuit against Shell, ACFN also plans to oppose all future tar sands projects by Shell. “Tar sands have been widely recognized as the most destructive project on earth because of the serious impacts on treaty and aboriginal rights, ecological destruction and global green house gas emissions (GHG),” commented Suzanne Dhaliwal from the UK Tar Sands Network. “Shell is one of the largest players in the tar sands producing close to 20% of overall production and it needs to be held accountable for the mass destruction it is causing to communities and the environment.”

Shell Canada recently submitted proposals to expand its current tar sands operations which, if approved, would more then double its production. This would translate into further encroachment of open pit mines on ACFN traditional lands, and into the pristine wilderness of the Pierre River, a previously untouched area. Councilor Anthony Ladouceur of ACFN said, “Shell has failed to meet past commitments and governments have done nothing to mitigate the issue. Current government monitoring is inadequate, and Shell cannot be trusted to monitor itself.”

ACFN is rightfully concerned these projects will further impact the First Nations’ ability to exercise treaty rights in a meaningful way into the future. “We don’t want our community to become the next Niger Delta where Shell’s unregulated actions have left communities devastated and resulted in the need for a 30-year clean-up estimated to cost $1 billion USD,” stated Eriel Deranger, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “The fate of our communities and our river is at stake and we are in the crosshairs of Shell’s plans to aggressively expand tar sands in our traditional territory. We ask the public to support ACFN’s efforts to stop Shell from permanently destroying our lands and community,” stated Chief Adam in his closing remarks.

Solidarity actions against Shell Oil were also held in Durban South Africa at the UNFCCC climate negotiations. Shell is internationally renowned for human rights abuses and the ACFN suit adds weight to the plight of many groups already challenging the corporation. ACFN and the Indigenous Environmental Network plan to co‐release a release a report next week outlining Shell’s broken promises and history in the tar sands[1].

An international coalition of Indigenous and environmental groups, including Keepers of the Athabasca, Greenpeace, Indigenous Environmental Network, Sierra Club Prairie, Pembina, Council of Canadians, International Indigenous Treaty Council, AFN Regional Office (NWT), Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Dene Nation, Platform, London Mining Network, UK Tar Sands Network, People & Planet, Rising Tide and Shell to Sea endorsed today’s action echoing the call on Shell Oil Canada and Shell Oil International to halt any further tar sands extraction in the Athabasca region until proper environmental safeguards are put into place in accordance with the treaties between Canada and First Nations governments.

See http://www.no-tar-sands.org/get-the-shell-out-of-the-tar-sands/

Eriel Deranger (Canada) – 001 780-903-6598

Suzanne Dhaliwal (UK) – 07772694327

Notes for editors

[1] The report will be available for download on the UK Tar Sands Network website.

Tar Monsters on the loose!

Hello Tar Monster Thwarters!

There has been an incredible flurry of action in the past 48 hours as we escalate efforts to stop the UK from blocking the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). And these are just the highlights! For more updates, check our facebook and twitter pages.

  1. Lewes tackles the Tar Monster
  2. HM Department for Tar Sands blockaded
  3. RBS caught out for climate greenwash
  4. Love oily paintings – hate oily money

Keep up the good work everyone – we’re nearly there!

Sue and Emily

1. Lewes tackles the Tar Monster
On Saturday we whizzed down to Lewes to meet up with our friends from South Coast Climate Camp, People and Planet, Lush, and Friends of the Earth Lewes. Residents and local activists sent a clear message to their MP Norman Baker that his move to block climate policy and further the interests of the tar sands industry is not on! As part of the Tar-Free Lewes campaign, Lush have had an image of Norman Baker tarred up in their stores in Brighton for the past week.

Continuing the theme of novelty-sized props, this action was characterized by an incredible giant tar monster puppet. Weaving its way around the Lewes High Street, the monster entertained dozens of children while their parents were illuminated about the metaphorical monstrosities happening in Alberta. The local community was shocked to hear that its formerly “eco” MP is now using wrecking tactics on essential climate policy. Many residents signed a petition to be sent to Norman ahead of the vote taking place in Brussels on Friday.

2. HM Department for Tar Sands blockaded
Norman Baker has insisted that he is trying to create an even more effective fuel policy than the one on the table. Yet, as was reiterated by this morning’s new evidence, Baker’s desire to delay the current proposal and research every fuel under the sun plays right into the hands of government and industry lobbyists. If tar sands wasn’t dominating the news enough already today, Greenpeace this morning blockaded the Department for Transport and rebranded it the Department for Tar Sands. This further escalates the campaign as we approach the EU member state vote this Friday, where we will see just how successful Baker has been at diluting other states’ climate policies. To have a go at steering Norman Baker in the right direction yourself, take People & Planet’s e-action.

3. RBS caught out for climate greenwash
Earlier this year you may remember that Climate Week‘s launch event was gatecrashed by dancing Greenwash Guerrillas. As part of a coalition of groups we pointed out the absurdity of RBS – the seventh largest global funder of tar sands companies – sponsoring an event claiming to be tackling climate change. Until very recently the company looked set to be a headline partner in 2012, but just a few days ago we heard RBS has “decided not to renew its sponsorship of Climate Week” ! This is a great boost to the campaign, in the words of Platform, “it prevents RBS from fending off mounting public pressure over its climate-trashing finance portfolio by saying, “how can we be the climate bad guys – we’re sponsoring Climate Week?””
Now we just need to get them to stop funding tar sands…

4. Love oily paintings – hate oily money
If you are free tomorrow night, join us as we help Platform celebrate the release of a great publication: ‘Not if but when: Culture Beyond Oil’. The beautifully designed ‘bookette’ discusses oil sponsorship of the arts and showcases images of all the amazing creative interventions that have been taking place to save our beloved art institutions from the stench of oil sponsorship. Don’t worry if you can’t make it down, you can still get involved by signing onto this letter calling on Nick Serota to dump BP sponsorship, or ordering a copy of ‘Not if but when: Culture Beyond Oil’.

Baker targeted by constituents for blocking climate action

‘Tar Monster’ roams Lewes as protesters urge Baker to support EU Fuel Quality Directive

Friday 25th November – For immediate release

On Saturday 26th November, a giant Tar Monster, produced by Friends of the Earth, the UK Tar Sands Network and South Coast Climate Camp, roamed the streets of Lewes. The monster highlighted the role of local MP Norman Baker in opposing action to cut the use of tar sands oil, the world’s most polluting transport fuel [1].

“We are aware that the Canadian tar sands industry is an ecological monster [2]. Fuel derived from tar sands comes at a very high price to the environment, to communities that live near extraction, and to the global climate,” said Lewes constituent Mark Mansbridge. “Gladly, the EU has moved towards labelling tar sands as more polluting than conventional oil [3]. You think this would be a welcome move for Baker, a self-styled environmentalist, however we are instead seeing him align with the Canadian government to derail the EU legislation.”

The Canadian government has been engaged in a mammoth lobbying offensive [4] against the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) for over two years, and has now openly vowed war [5] on the legislation, claiming that it threatens future export markets for global unconventional oil, and unfairly discriminates against the tar sands. In recent months, as the decision now goes to EU member states, the UK government has escalated its support of the Canadian position, going so far as to lobby other EU states to reject the inclusion of tar sands in the FQD [6]. As minister responsible for the UK position [7], Norman Baker has been the focus of intensive campaigning on this issue by NGOs and climate campaigners for recent months [8].

“A coalition of international NGOs, community groups and climate campaigners have been urging Baker to stop blocking the inclusion of a higher tar sands value,” commented UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal. “Baker insists he is trying to help the environment [9], arguing that the proposed legislation singles out tar sands and should be delayed until more data is available about other fuel sources. But this is a bogus argument, inherited from the Canadian government. The Commission’s current proposal has already given values to other unconventional fuel sources, and contains a clause to include more fuel types as the science becomes available. Baker needs to realise that there is no time to delay – this legislation needs to come into effect as soon as possible.”

Now the pressure to stop caving in to the interests of the Canadian tar sands industry is coming closer to home. Earlier this week the local Lush store-front displayed an image of Norman Baker dripping in tar sands oil [10]. “Norman Baker was right behind setting up Transition Town Lewes and supporting climate activists.” said Mansbridge. “We have felt betrayed by Norman’s position on the Fuel Quality Directive. If he continues to call for tar sands to not be labelled as highly polluting he will be putting the interests of the Canadian tar sands industry and corporations ahead of his constituents, who want affirmative action on climate change.”

Lewes’ Green Party has expressed concern that Norman Baker is trying to prevent the implementation of the transport legislation given his previous commitment to the environment [11]. “We need our government to be taking decisive action to reduce emissions from fuels. The Fuel Quality Directive will move industry towards a green economy to provide us with jobs we can be proud of and renewable energy for future generations,” said councillor Susan Murray. “Tar sands are a highly polluting source of carbon-based fuel and if production is encouraged by unimpeded access to European markets then the fight against irreversible climate change is as good as lost [12].”


Photos up here – High res images available upon request

Notes for editors:
[1] Minister for Transport, Norman Baker, stated the UK government will oppose an inclusion of a tar sands value. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/04/oil-sands-imports-eu-ban?newsfeed=true
[2] See www.no-tar-sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands
[3] The Fuel Quality Directive aims to cut carbon emissions from transport by 6% by 2020. The directive includes values for a range of transport fuels including shale oil. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/04/eu-tarsands-idUSL5E7L41ST20111004
[4] See ‘Canada’s dirty lobby diary – Undermining the EU Fuel Quality Directive’ released by Friends of the Earth Europe http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2011/FOEE_Report_Tar_Sands_Lobby_Final_July82011.pdf
[5] The Minister has vowed to fight the EUs’ recent decision http://www.canada.com/business/Oliver+vows+fight+smacks+oilsands+with+pollution+penalty/5501777/story.html
[6] http://priceofoil.org/2011/09/27/britain-backs-canada-over-tar-sands-fight/
[7] Norman Baker is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Transport.
[8] e.g. from the Co-operative Bank http://www.co-operative.coop/toxicfuels
[9] http://www.normanbaker.org.uk/pr/2011/111124_lush.htm
[10] https://phoenix.lush.co.uk/content/view/2855 Norman Baker, MP: TARNISHED- Blowing his chance to keep dirty tar sands oil out of Europe
[11] In opposition, Norman Baker sponsored a Parliamentary Early Day Motion stating that tar sands cause “deforestation and pollution which threatens the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities” and “that the continued expansion of tar sands extraction is incompatible with the emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change” – see http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/1055
[12] NASA Scientist James Hansen has said that irreversible climate change is inevitable if all the oil in Canada’s tar sands is burned http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/feb/17/barack-obama-canada-climate-change









Pipe Dreams: Keystone delayed until 2013!

Dear Winners,

We know you just heard from us, but we have same amazing news! Not only have we found out that Pete and Emily have had their charges dropped for the Oil Orgy, we have also just heard that Obama has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline decision for over a year!

What a month it’s been for tar sands action: we’ve staged an orgy, quashed a propagandist, built a White House, delayed a pipeline, and unveiled our first Tar-Free Town! But there is always more to do: the battle of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) continues, with action heading to Baker’s local constituency in coming weeks.

Remember, as the IEA recently reminded us, we only have five years to stop building carbon intensive infrastructure if we want to stop runaway climate change. Tar sands are massively carbon-intensive, but also just massively massive: no matter how much they are ‘greened’, their sheer size poses a monumental threat to the climate. So if you’re involved in tar sands campaigning, or would like to be, drop us an email and we’ll see how we can provide support and publicity for your actions, or help you get started on a campaign.

  1. Keystone pipeline update
  2. Orgy charges dropped
  3. FQD action in Lewes
  4. People and Planet Beaver Lake Cree Exchange

Massive thanks for everyone’s hard work,

Sue and Emily

  1. Keystone XL pipeline update

A culmination of months of action was reached on Sunday, when 10,000+ people gathered around the White House in DC to urge Obama to reject the proposed 1200-mile tar sands pipeline. On the same day we held a solidarity action by the US embassy where we surrounded our own miniature White House, built especially for us by the lovely Ellie. A great report by Tim is up on Indymedia.

What happened next was remarkable. The Obama administration announced yesterday it would carry out a further environmental review and research alternative routes for the pipeline, delaying any decision until early 2013. This is a great victory! The battle isn’t completely over, but as Bill McKibben points out, the pipeline (on any route) is unlikely to survive a proper environmental review, because, unlike the last assessment, this one “won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company…it will be an expert and independent assessment.” Well done to all involved!

  1. Orgy charges dropped

In other happy news, Emily and Pete, who were charged with criminal damage for spilling some molasses on some chairs and a table cloth during the ‘oil orgy’, have since had their charges dropped. The prosecution decided to discontinue to the case after friendly law firm Bindmans convinced them it was not in the public interest to prosecute.

  1. FQD action in Lewes

Local action in the constituency of Norman Baker, the minister in charge of the UK’s position on the tar-sands-discouraging-FQD, will take place on Saturday 26th instead of tomorrow as originally planned. A ‘tar monster’ will roam the area and local residents will speak out against tar sands, urging Baker to remember his environmental credentials and stop working with Canada to block the EU legislation. This will contribute to the mounting national and international pressure against Baker to agree to the FQD. If you live near Lewes try and get along to this action – Baker’s constituency is a key area to target in this battle.

  1. People & Planet Beaver Lake Cree Exchange

Wednesday evening saw an emotional event at Greenpeace in London, where Chance and Crystal spoke about the tar sands impacts on their community of Beaver Lake. If you missed this, there is still time to see them, and a host of other interesting speakers and workshops, at People & Planet’s Shared Planet event this weekend in Oxford.

UK activists surround miniature White House as pipeline protests go global

Rise Up from Nancy Boulicault on Vimeo.

Sunday 6th November – For immediate release

Activists outside the US Embassy in London surrounded a model of the White House to protest against the proposed US Keystone XL pipeline. Holding banners that read “Obama NO!” and “Tar sands is blood oil”, the action corresponded with 6000 people in Washington DC surrounding the White House to urge Obama to reject the proposed 1600-mile pipeline that would take tar sands oil from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast. [1]

“The Keystone XL pipeline would entrench our reliance on a particularly dirty fossil fuel which is devastating communities,” said UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal. “As we speak, First Nations in Alberta are having their way of life destroyed, with forests being clear cut, animals poisoned, and rare cancers now rife in the community. We cannot afford to further expand the tar sands – they are a climate disaster, with the potential to increase the atmospheric carbon concentration by 200 ppm.” [2]

The Keystone XL pipeline has faced a raft of opposition in the US from a variety of fronts, with climate activists, farmers, First Nations and even the government of Nebraska, all coming together to persuade Obama to reject the pipeline. [3] In August and September, a series of protests outside the White House resulted in 1,253 arrests and has seen the issue flooding the media. [4]

The likely environmental impacts of the pipeline have been vastly downplayed. The US Environmental Protection Agency notes that the project could yield an extra 1.15 billion tons of GHGs, but this has been ignored by the US State Department’s own Environmental Impact Statement. Transcanada’s other pipelines have been leaking on average at one spill per month. A rupture in the Keystone XL pipeline could cause a BP-style oil spill – devastating the entire area, and contaminating the source of fresh drinking water for 2 million people. [5]

Dhaliwal continued, “We are standing in solidarity today with the Lakota Nations in the US who oppose this pipe going through pristine water sources. [6] President Obama recently signed onto the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People’s. He cannot uphold that commitment by approving this pipeline.”

The US pipeline decision comes at a time when the EU is also considering the future of tar sands. The proposed Fuel Quality Directive [7], which would strongly discourage tar sands from entering the EU, has been repeatedly stalled by the UK government, largely as a result of incessant Canadian lobbying. [8]

Emily Coats, also from UK Tar Sands Network, commented, “We are particularly concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline here in the UK, because US companies are already expressing their desires to use the pipeline to bring tar sands oil to Europe. [9] Given the UK government’s reluctance to embrace legislation that would prevent that, it is even more important that the pipeline does not get built, so we can stop the flow of this dirty oil at its source.”


For interviews and high resolution photos, please contact Suzanne Dhaliwal on +44 7807 095 669

Notes for editors:

[1] One year from the next election, US activists return to DC to try to encircle the White House to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The action begins at 2 pm in Lafayette Park. http://www.tarsandsaction.org/

[2] http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/05/236978/james-hansen-keystone-pipeline-tar-sands-climate/

[3] The decision of whether to approve the pipeline technically lies with the US State Department, but Obama has the opportunity to intervene if he wishes. Recent news has indicated that Obama intends to step in and take responsibility for the decision. See http://www.tarsandsaction.org/turning-point-president-obama-comments-keystone-xl/

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/03/keystone-xl-pipepline-protest-ends_n_947951.html

[5] http://www.tarsandsaction.org/spread-the-word/key-facts-keystone-xl/

[6] The Fort Laramie Treaties, guaranteed by the US Constitution, secure the lands of the Lakota Nation for the Lakota People. The tar sands Keystone XL oil pipeline would pass through these lands while crossing the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest, which supplies fresh water to the surrounding reservations as well as eight US states. http://www.truth-out.org/lakota-tribes-refuse-cooperate-tar-sands-proponents/1320241082

[7] The Fuel Quality Directive aims to reduce the EU’s transport emissions by 6% by 2020, by distinguishing certain fuels with an average value of carbon-intensity. The EU Commission has approved a currently proposal that would give carbon values to a number of unconventional fuels, including tar sands, oil shale, and coal-to-liquid. Member states will vote on the proposal in December.

[8] The Canadian government has been lobbying the EU and especially the UK for a number of years, to reject the legislation as ‘discriminatory’ and ‘unscientific’. Most recently, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was sent to LSE to give a public lecture pushing the future of tar sands and speaking out against the Fuel Quality Directive. See www.vancouversun.com/business/Minister+challenged+British+students+during+oilsands+tour/5581538/story.html See also http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2011/FOEE_Report_Tar_Sands_Lobby_Final_July82011.pdf for more examples of lobbying.

[9] US refining company Valero has told its shareholders it intends to use Keystone to export tar sands oil to markets including the UK. See www.no-tar-sands.org/2011/09/tar-sands-on-fast-track-to-the-uk/ for details.

Pipelines, Propaganda and Personal Stories

Rise Up from Nancy Boulicault on Vimeo.

Dear Mini-White-House-Occupiers,

Momentum is building for the Tar Sands Action this Sunday. In the US, over 5,000 people have signed up to surround the White House to encourage Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. We’ve planned a miniature action in London – see below for details. While the pipeline is dominating the agenda in the US, here in Europe all eyes are still on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) – important legislation discouraging tar sands oil from entering the EU, which is STILL being stalled by the UK. In other news, People and Planet’s Beaver Lake Cree Youth Exchange culminates next week with Crystal and Chance coming to talk at a variety of events around the UK.

  1. Keystone Solidarity Action: Stop the Pipeline!
  2. Challenging a tar sands propagandist
  3. Fuel Quality Directive debate goes local
  4. Chance and Crystal visit from Beaver Lake

Love and solidarity,

Emily and Sue

  1. Keystone Solidarity Action: Stop the Pipeline!

This Sunday 6th November, from 11am, we will surround our own miniature White House outside the US Embassy in London. The anti-pipeline movement in the US has been incredible and for the first time Obama has commented publicly on the issue, letting on that “my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what’s best for the health of the American people?” It is now essential not only to support the protesters in Washington, but to show that as far away as Europe this pipeline is a matter of controversy – particularly as we face the possibility of future tar sands imports to Europe.  More details about the solidarity action on our website and facebook event.

  1. Challenging a tar sands propagandist

Understandably, the FQD is a source of much dismay within the Canadian government, and the latest propagandist sent here to ‘fight’ it was Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Keen to not let him speak unopposed, we turned up with banners, critical questions, and a “Greenwash Propagandist of the Year Award” to present to the minister. As it was, the audience was so critical that we were met with a whole gang of tar-stoppers in the audience! This shows that word is getting out about tar sands and university students will not be convinced by government spin. Many thanks to People and Planet for their help in making this happen. Check out some excellent media coverage we received.

  1. Fuel Quality Directive debate goes local

One of the key things for us to focus on in the next few weeks will be challenging Norman Baker, the minister responsible for the UK’s uncompromising position on the FQD.  The amazing people in his local constituency of Lewes have started to up the pressure to hold him accountable to his previous commitment in the community to the climate movement. A group of people attended his surgery, questioned him on the FQD, distributed Tar-Free-Lewes posters to Norman and held a protest outside.  A friend of Norman Baker’s writes her powerful version of events here, explaining how she feels personally let down by his moves to stall the FQD. We are planning further action in Lewes on November 12th.  If you would like to take part please contact us at the usual address [email protected].

  1. Chance and Crystal visit from Beaver Lake

People and Planet are hosting a visit from two young members of a community affected by tar sands. Chance and Crystal will be speaking at a variety of events, including in London on 9th November, at Shared Planet in Oxford on 12th November, and in Birmingham on 13th November. This will be a powerful opportunity to hear about the impacts of the tar sands industry on their environment, health and the treaty rights which are meant to protect their traditional ways of life. See you there!

Canada poses as “Friendly, Green Oil Giant” to win over UK universities

London, October 20th 2011 – Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Minister, met with staunch opposition at the London School of Economics (LSE) whilst promoting Canada as the next ‘Global Energy Superpower’ [1]. Protesters presented an alternative perspective to the one-sided lecture by asking difficult questions throughout.

LSE students and activists presented Joe Oliver with the ‘Greenwash Propagandist of the Year Award’ for his efforts to contort the science, dismiss the human consequences of tar sands extraction and to re-brand the world’s most destructive project as secure, reliable and sustainable.

“This lecture today was an inappropriate attempt to use an educational venue to promote the Canadian Tar Sands industry,” commented People and Planet ‘Tar Sands Free Universities’ [2] Campaigner Liam Barrington-Bush. “Canadians should know that their ministers are embarking on an ongoing mission to undermine peer-reviewed science and efforts of European climate legislators by greenwashing the reality of tar sands extraction.”

Before departing on his mission to London, Oliver vowed war on the EU’s plans to curb emissions from tar sands. [3]. Canada has justified its extensive EU lobbying by accusing the EU of singling out tar sands extraction unfairly by labeling tar sands as more polluting than conventional oil [4].

“Canadian Tar sands are not getting attention in the EU because we want to discriminate against them or sabotage the Canadian economy,” said UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal. “Canada is receiving this attention because of the unprecedented attempts to undermine democratic climate legislation, and the gravity of the environmental destruction and human rights violations taking place in Canada.”

Protesters also held a banner outside, which read “Tar Sands is Blood Oil” in response to Oliver’s recent televised claim that tar sands development was in an area uninhabited by First Nations communities [5]. “The environmental justice movement which has galvanized around tar sands issues over the past two years has worked to support First Nations fighting for health and environmental impact assessments and the respect of their inherent treaty rights [6],” said Barrington-Bush. “This does not fit with the image of a ‘Friendly Green Oil Giant’ that Oliver has tried to present Canada as today.”

The impending European legislation to curb the growth of the tar sands industry has put the Canadian government on a PR offensive. Lobbying missions once reserved for parliament see ministers now desperately turning to universities to change the minds of the public.

“Fortunately, previous Canadian lobbying attempts to remove tar sands from the Fuel Quality Directive were challenged by the EU parliament and NGOs committed to reducing transport emissions,” commented Dhaliwal. “Now Canada is calling on corporations BP, Shell and Statoil and the UK government to stop the transport legislation from going ahead [7]. As we saw last week at Gordon Campbell’s Energy Roundtable in St James Palace, public opposition in Europe to such undemocratic behavior is growing stronger [8].”

Liam Presenting the Green Wash Award to Joe Oliver

For media interviews, photos and video contact +44 7807 095 669

[1] “Canada: a reliable, responsible contributor to global energy security and economic stability” http://www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/events/2011/20111020t1300vHKT.aspx

[2] People and Planet recently launched a Tar Sands Free Universities campaign after students visited the Beaver Lake Cree communities http://peopleandplanet.org/tarsands

[3] See http://business.financialpost.com/2011/10/04/oliver-vows-fight-if-eu-smacks-oil-sands-with-pollution-penalty/

[4] http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFN1E79H15S20111018Other unconventional fuels targeted by the legislation include coal converted to liquid and oil from shale rock.http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/04/oil-sands-imports-eu-ban

[5] “That (oil sands) land, which only represents one-thousandth of our boreal forest, is uninhabitable… uh… by human beings. So, you know, no community is being disrupted.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/inside-politics-blog/2011/09/the-uninhabitability-of-the-oil-sands-forests.html

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/aug/23/london-tar-sands-climate-protest

[7] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/oil-sands-firms-looks-to-european-partners-in-battle-against-new-eu-rules/article2202821/



Orgies or ecocide: who are the real criminals?

Dearest Tar-Sand-Strippers,

It has been one helluva week in the world of tar-sands-stopping.  The EU Commission has come out and approved the inclusion of a separate tar sands value in the FQD! This is a victory – but only of sorts – because we now need member states to agree. The UK government, egged on by Canada, continues its opposition. So we thought it was time to up the ante.

  1. ‘Oily Orgy’ erupts at Energy Roundtable
  2. Mock trial finds Tar Sands execs guilty of Ecocide
  3. Tar-Free Towns launch!
  4. UKTSN welcome for Canadian minister at LSE
  5. Putting a spanner in the Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Peace not Tar,

Sue and Emily


1. ‘Oily Orgy’ erupts at Energy Roundtable

On Tuesday 100 or so delegates attended the London Energy Roundtable to see how the UK and Canada could “share strategic thinking on the commercial opportunities” presented by Canada’s resources. The attendees consisted of oil execs, opportunistic businessmen, high level government officials such as Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell – whose self-styled job description includes lobbying against the ‘quality fuels directive’ [sic!] – and, as it happened, undercover activists.

“Oil Orgy” invades Energy Summit from You and I Films on Vimeo.

The delegates didn’t know what had hit them when only half an hour into the conference Emily and performance poet Pete the Temp, dressed as Canada and the UK, climbed onto a table and descended into a messy, vocal ‘oil orgy’. The protest demonstrated quite visually what has been happening for over two years now: a foul intimacy festering between the UK and Canada over their mutual desire to sabotage the Fuel Quality Directive. The footage had more than 27,500 hits in 48 hours and been picked up by the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Vancouver Sun! Pete and Emily were detained for 11 hours and charged with criminal damage – boo! We will let you know how they are doing in the next few weeks.

2. Mock trial finds Tar Sands execs guilty of Ecocide

A few drops of molasses spilt on the carpet pale in comparison to what the real criminals are getting away with. The good news is that oil executives themselves may soon be held liable for the criminal effects of tar sands operations. Last month we celebrated an awesome achievement for international lawyer Polly Higgins, who is working to get ‘Ecocide’ recognised as the fifth international crime against the peace. A mock trial held on 30th September found the CEOs of two fictional companies operating in Alberta’s tar sands guilty of ecocide, for their tailings ponds devastating boreal ecosystems and killing wildlife. This shows just how powerful such a law would be! Support Polly on Facebook.

3. Tar-Free Towns launch at Transition Heathrow

Today we will be celebrating the first Tar-Free Town in the UK…. Transition Heathrow! Come and celebrate the beginnings of a tar-free future at the resistance jam! Transition Heathrow is the first of hopefully many communities to become Tar-Free. Get in touch if you want to learn more about becoming tar-free. We will have a shiny website coming soon to tell you all about it…ooooooh.

4. UKTSN welcome for Canadian minister at LSE

Canada appears to be upping its PR offensive, sending Joe Oliver, Canadian Natural Resources minister to give a free public lecture at London School of Economics on October 20th to discuss Canada as a “responsible” provider of energy. Oliver has been notorious for denying the impacts of tar sands on the lives of First Nations communities and recently declaring war on the Fuel Quality Directive. We don’t want to let him get away unchallenged, so we’re going to attend and present some alternative perspectives. Drop us a line if you fancy coming with us to thwart this pro-tar-ganda.

5. Putting a spanner in the Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Put November 6th in your diaries: we’re planning a solidarity action with people in Washington D.C. who will be circling the White House to give Obama one final shove to come to his senses and not let the Keystone XL Pipeline be built. Read more about what Keystone will mean for Tar Sands entering the UK, yuck!

Phew, tar sands stopping never stops! If you ever want to get more involved we would love to meet up and have a chat. Email [email protected]