Pages tagged "tarsands"

Keystone XL: Where Things Stand

It's been one month since the climate movement won a significant delay on the Keystone XL pipeline. Since then, the oil industry and their political and media backers have gotten increasingly desperate:

  • Oil companies tried to ram a vote on Keystone through the U.S. Senate. Last week, that effort collapsed in disarray and finger-pointing among the fossil fuel industry's biggest political boosters.
  • TransCanada, the Canadian company behind Keystone, even resorted to threats to sue the U.S. government under NAFTA. Early this month, they were forced to disavow that outrageous tactic.
  • Pro-Keystone commentators are truly grasping at straws, including claiming that President Obama is delaying a decision to pave the way for a government takeover of the energy sector,1 and arguing that it's the poor, under-resourced oil industry—and not the environmental movement—that’s the real underdog in the fight over the pipeline.2

These bottom-of-the-barrel tactics signal that fossil fuel corporations will do anything to avoid facing up to the view that one prominent analyst voiced this month: "We have been of the opinion for nearly a year now that Keystone XL is dead."3Another Father Against Keystone XLThis delay means another year that tar sands oil stays in the ground, instead of flowing through the pipeline. This delay is another nail in the coffin of this disastrous project. And you—the incredible grassroots tide of resolve and determination—are the ones who made this happen.

Keystone would have been just another routine dirty energy infrastructure project if not for public pressure—like the unprecedented 2.5 million public comments submitted into the approvals process. People all along the pipeline route, from Alberta to the Gulf Coast—especially Indigenous communities and farming communities—mobilized against the project.

Another key factor has been the threat of massive civil disobedience if President Obama approves the pipeline—one veteran environmental campaigner called it the "sharpest arrow in the quiver" of the Keystone opposition movement. Almost 100,000 people signed Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, committing to take direct action if the administration lights the fuse of the continent’s biggest carbon bomb.

So while we're proud that the movement won a major delay, the struggle is far from over. Here at Rainforest Action Network, we're staying vigilant on Keystone. We're continuing to hone the cutting edge of the climate movement by training committed activists. And we're taking fast, strategic action to block dirty energy deals.

Thank you for all you've done.


1. “Obama Blocks Keystone To Start Energy Takeover,” Investor’s Business Daily, May 13, 2014 (
2. “Mainstream media don't know Big Green has deeper pockets than Big Oil,” Washington Examiner, May 13, 2014 (
3. “The Keystone Pipeline is Quickly Becoming Obsolete,” Business Insider, May 7, 2014 (

The Keystone XL Resistance Training Tour Returns

We’re not sitting idly, waiting for President Obama to decide whether to approve or reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This weekend, more than 300 people are expected to turn out to build the network of tens of thousands of pipeline resisters—people ready to stage non-violent civil disobedience actions in their home towns to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and the disastrous effects of more tar sands development. RAN’s crew of all star trainers are lined up to host the two day workshops in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Austin this weekend, and will carry on next weekend in Ann Arbor, DC, Los Angeles and New York City. If your interested, its not too late to sign up and get trained! [caption id="attachment_23582" align="alignnone" width="500"]A previous Pledge of Resistance training in Portland, OR. A previous Pledge of Resistance training in Portland, OR.[/caption] People who attend will walk away with all the tools they need -- including a robust support structure of coaches and media support -- to coordinate protests with our Pledge of Resistance network. They’ll then go out and train thousands of others prepared to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL. Already 100 direct actions are planned across the country, forming a wave of civil disobedience actions to make clear to President Obama that the American people do not want this tar sands pipeline and will do whatever it takes to stop it. We are standing on a climate precipice with the looming decision on the Keystone XL that’s edging toward the President’s desk. What we know for sure is that whether or not we are victorious in stopping the approval of the northern leg of this pipeline—the missing link for big oil to expand Alberta oil sands extraction—this is the right fight. And with nearly 100,000 people committed to risk arrest if necessary in cities and towns across the country, the climate movement is spreading it’s wings.

PHOTOS: 5 Things the Galveston Bay Oil Spill Says About Keystone XL

On Saturday, March 22, a barge carrying thick bunker fuel collided with another ship in the Houston Shipping Canal in Texas. The barge spilled 168,000 gallons of oil into the Galveston Bay, shut down the waterway for three days, and caked critical migrating bird habitat with the toxic oil. While the barge spilled bunker oil, not tar sands oil, the accident provides some surprisingly direct lessons about the Keystone XL pipeline.

1. Keystone XL means more oil, and ship traffic, through the Houston Ship Canal. That means more oil spills.

[caption id="attachment_23517" align="alignnone" width="530"]Tug boats moved damaged barge the spilled 168,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay. Photo via Tug boats moved damaged barge the spilled 168,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay. Photo via[/caption] When complete, 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil will flow through Keystone XL everyday. If the oil doesn't spill on its 2000 mile journey from Alberta, Canada, refineries in Houston will process much of it. That will lead to more shipping traffic in Galveston Bay and potentially more oil spills.

2. While the industry profits, communities deal with sickening pollution from extracting and burning tar sands.

[caption id="attachment_23515" align="alignnone" width="530"]Galveston Bay oil spill clean up next to communities in Texas. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP Galveston Bay oil spill clean up next to communities in Texas. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] Oil is toxic and communities like Pike, TX will be forced to deal with the health impacts of this week's spill. Keystone XL will increase tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada, where First Nation communities already face health impacts from the industry. At the other end of the pipeline, refining the tar sands will lead to increased air pollution for communities—primarily communities of color—in Houston. Climate change from burning tar sands oil threatens us all.

3. Keystone XL is a threat to wildlife.

[caption id="attachment_23516" align="alignnone" width="530"]A bird killed by this week's Galveston Bay spill. Photo Credit: Melissa Phillip/AP A bird killed by this week's Galveston Bay spill. Photo Credit: Melissa Phillip/AP[/caption] The oil spill in Galveston is disrupting critical habitat for diverse migrating birds. While it's actually not the biggest spill to hit Galveston Bay, it couldn't have happened at a worse time for the wintering birds at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary (which is half a a mile from the spill!). At least 10 have died and 50 have been taken to rescue centers. The long-term effects up and down the food chain could also be devastating as oil stays in the sand for years. Tar sands extraction is already destroying giant swaths of Canada's boreal forest. Keystone XL could spill and damage critical habitat anywhere along its route. It particularly threatens North America's tallest bird, the critically endangered Whooping Crane. There are little more that 500 individuals left and the route of the pipeline lines up almost exactly with the their own range.
[caption id="attachment_23520" align="alignnone" width="250"]Critically Endangered Whooping Crane Critically Endangered Whooping Crane[/caption] [caption id="attachment_23521" align="alignnone" width="250"]The western winter, summer and migratory habitat of the Whooping Crane lines up almost exactly with the rout of Keystone XL. The western winter, summer and migratory habitat of the Whooping Crane lines up almost exactly with the route of Keystone XL.[/caption]

4. Keystone XL could disrupt our economy and food system.

[caption id="attachment_23518" align="alignnone" width="530"]Booms attempt to contain the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP Booms attempt to contain the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] The spill will have a huge economic toll. Not only did it shut down one of the world's busiest waterways for 3 days, it will disrupt Galveston Island's lucrative tourism industry right in the middle of spring break. Perhaps most damaging, it will have long-term consequences for the Galveston Bay's multibillion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry. Keystone XL might contribute to another spill in Galveston Bay, but a spill anywhere could have serious impacts on agriculture. Particularly, the pipeline threatens the Oglalla Aquifer, the largest source of fresh water in the United States and supply for much of the nations's bread basket. Climate change caused by expanding tar sands will have catastrophic effects on our economy and food system.

5. There's hope.

[caption id="attachment_23519" align="alignnone" width="530"]A rescued bird recovers from the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Chase A. Fountain/TPWD A rescued bird recovers from the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Chase A. Fountain/TPWD[/caption] Hundreds have volunteered to clean up after the oil spill and experts are working tirelessly to protect birds from the heavy oil. Humans have a great capacity to come together during a crisis. Well, Keystone XL is a crisis for communities and the climate. Let's come together to stop it. Sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance today! Correction: In a previous version of this blog I refer to the oil spilled as crude. The oil spilled was bunker fuel oil, a thick, tarry fuel usually used on board ships.

XL Dissent: Where Do We Go From Here? Announcing the Pledge of Resistance Spring Training Tour

The Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance is coming to campuses to train students for civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. Click here to join the 86,000 people who have already pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL, and read on for training dates and locations—and to learn more about the movement to resist the pipeline. “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the tension that is already alive.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [caption id="attachment_23262" align="aligncenter" width="480"]XL Dissent, February 28th XL Dissent, February 28th[/caption] Last Sunday, the world got a sense of the pressure that has been building just beneath the surface of our society when over 1,000 youth massed outside the White House and demanded the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Nearly 400 were arrested at XL Dissent, which will be remembered as a significant early skirmish in the battle for a post-carbon future. If this sounds like a grandiose claim to you, read on—the bold action of the XL Dissenters is just a glimpse of the resistance to Keystone XL that is building across the country. [caption id="attachment_23263" align="alignright" width="162"]Tar Sands Blockade, September 2012 Tar Sands Blockade, September 2012[/caption] To the casual observer, resistance to Keystone XL might look like a series of high-profile acts of civil resistance, of which XL Dissent is the latest example. While these flashpoints have been characterized by a particular intensity (1,252 were arrested at Tar Sands Action over 15 days; Tar Sands Blockade continues a sustained direct action campaign), the punctuated rhythm of these events belies the dramatic growth of opposition to Keystone XL. Rather than functioning as a pressure relief valve, these actions have supercharged resistance to Keystone XL, and XL Dissent tapped into that reservoir. How deep does this well of resistance go? We’re starting to find out. Last Spring, Rainforest Action Network joined with CREDO Action and The Other 98% to launched the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, a national pledge to resist the pipeline through massive waves of coordinated civil disobedience. As of today, 86,503 people have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL. If the State Department finds that the pipeline passes the climate test and is in the U.S.’s national interest, Obama will find himself the target of the largest wave of coordinated resistance in recent memory. Tens of thousands will be arrested all over the country at over one hundred actions, each one planned and coordinated by local action teams. You can check out the hundred actions that are already planned here. [caption id="attachment_23267" align="alignleft" width="307"]Boston Pledge of Resistance action, October, 2013 Boston Pledge of Resistance action, October, 2013[/caption] By this summer, the Obama administration will likely have made a decision on Keystone XL, a decision young people will live with for the rest of their lives. The stakes are enormous, but so is the movement to resist Keystone XL. Now, on the heels of XL Dissent, the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance is launching a training tour to prepare hundreds of students and community members to coordinate, plan, and launch civil disobedience actions. Check out the below events to see if we’re training near you, and RSVP to attend. Click here to sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance and to stand in solidarity with the thousands who are standing strong against the pipeline.

Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance – Spring Training Tour 2014

April 5-6

POR2Boston, MA Philadelphia, PA Chicago, IL Austin, TX  

April 12-13

Los Angeles, CA New York, NY Ann Arbor, MI Washington, D.C.    

Dare to Win - The Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance

We are changing the world. When the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was proposed five years ago, it could have just been one more energy project green-lighted by Washington D.C. But the massive pipeline would increase tar sands oil development beyond what is acceptable for a safe climate, and could poison drinking water for millions of Americans. Our movement pushed back and forced the State Department to reconsider the pipeline’s oil-soaked environmental review. And in the last month alone—since the second and final environmental assessment was released—more than 40 organizations and 2,030,000 individuals like you have spoken out demanding President Obama reject the pipeline. [caption id="attachment_23294" align="alignnone" width="500"]Boxes representing more than 2 million comments calling on the Obama Administration to reject Keystone XL. Boxes representing more than 2 million comments calling on the Obama Administration to reject Keystone XL. Photo credit: Energy Action Coalition[/caption] Building the Keystone XL pipeline would lock us into the fossil-fueled future of our nightmares. But our collective voice is drowning out the oil industry and its political allies that would profit from Keystone XL! If we push even harder—if our resistance makes it politically unfeasible for President Obama to approve the pipeline—we can win this fight and stop Keystone XL. Will you join us in pledging to resist the Keystone XL pipeline, including—if necessary—risking arrest in peaceful civil disobedience to stop this pipeline once and for all? The decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is President Obama’s decision and his alone. The President has said he’ll make that decision by this summer. Those who put him into office are depending on him to stand on the right side of history. We have already spoken through official government channels. Now it is time to go even further to make sure President Obama can’t ignore our call. This is our moment to show just how committed we are to protect our water and our planet. Big moments require big actions. We can beat the oil industry on this, but it will take large numbers to make enough of an impact. That is why we at Rainforest Action Network, along with our friends at CREDO and The Other 98%, are proud to stand with more than 86,000 people who have joined the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, people who feel so strongly that they are prepared to put their bodies on the line by risking going to jail. Will you stand with us too? Join the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance. If tens of thousands of people stand up as President Obama mulls his final decision, and commit to participate in civil disobedience if necessary, we can convince the White House that it will be politically unfeasible to go forward. That is, our goal is not to get arrested. Our goal is to stop the Keystone XL pipeline—by showing enough opposition to Keystone XL that President Obama will reject it. But if he shows clear signs that he is preparing to approve it, we will be ready. Here’s the plan: The administration is now working towards a National Interest Determination that will approve or reject the pipeline. If the Obama administration issues a Draft National Interest Determination finding that favors Keystone XL, that will trigger action on our pledge to resist. Over 100 actions are already planned and many more are in the works. We need you to join them and make their actions even bigger. We realize not everyone can risk arrest in non-violent direct action. But whether it is attending a rally, reaching out to the media or making art, the Pledge of Resistance has roles for everyone. Click here to join the Pledge of Resistance right now. If you help show the President how big, powerful and committed our movement really is, we can guide him to the right decision. We can win. 

XL Dissent: "We Are Building A Culture of Resistance"

keystone_dc_protest_ccThis Sunday, over one thousand young people will descend on the White House. By the end of the day, hundreds of them, most of them students at more than 200 colleges and universities, will be arrested. There’s something happening here. Just days after a U.S. State Department review determined that ERM, an oil industry contractor and dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute, was capable of an unbiased review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, hundreds of youth activists will be risking arrest outside the White House as part of XL Dissent. Their objective is to secure a rejection of the climate-killing Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and to hold President Obama accountable for his campaign promise to safeguard climate stability by “end(ing) the tyranny of oil.” The stakes are high for both Obama’s Democratic Party and for these young people. Many commentators are quick to point out a well-worn political calculus: millennials helped elect Obama, and his party's success relies on their continued support (youth delivered 80 electoral votes for Obama in 2012, enough to swing the election in his favor). Indeed, many core XL Dissent student organizers cast their first votes for Obama in 2012. One student organizer took a year off college to work on his campaign. She'll be risking arrest this Sunday. [caption id="attachment_23179" align="alignright" width="150"]Evan Bell Evan Bell (Tufts ‘15)[/caption] Clearly, there’s a lot more at stake for the XL Dissenters than midterm vote counts. As the students are quick to point out, their very future is on the line. According to Evan Bell (Tufts ‘15), the prospect of Obama approving Keystone XL “horrifies me. I’m afraid the climate won’t support me, won’t support my children.” President Obama and D.C. policymakers need to take a hard look at who police will arrest this Sunday. Many of them were too young to vote in the 2012 election. Some of those arrested will still be in high school. XL Dissent should give Obama pause, and force the president to consider who loses if Big Oil wins. He should see his own daughters in the faces of those who are arrested at his doorstep this weekend. There’s a watershed quality to XL Dissent. While opposition to Keystone XL has been spurred by grassroots and indigenous resistance (see Tar Sands Blockade, Ogalala Sioux and others), national environmental organizations have played a major role in coordinating D.C. movement gatherings. XL Dissent is different, then, because it was conceived and organized from below, by the students themselves. As Evan Bell told me, “Every decision, message point, and recruitment effort has been led by a young person.” [caption id="attachment_23178" align="alignright" width="150"]Aly Johnson-Kurts Aly Johnson-Kurts (Smith ’16)[/caption] What’s more, these students are on a more radical footing than beltway organizations. Aly Johnson-Kurts (Smith ’16) told me “civil disobedience is necessary because of huge corporate power. The inside game isn’t going to work.” More and more, these young people are placing their hope in distributed networks of resistance, rather than in a president who ran on hope as a platform. They’re hovering in a space between fear, anger, and radical hope. They know their futures are on the line and feel more accountable to each other and frontline communities than elected politicians. “We’re building a culture of resistance,” Evan Bell told me. Thank goodness for XL Dissent. I know where my climate hope lies: with the dissenters. Go to to read about the action, donate, and see the faces of the XL Disent. And be sure to follow the action this Sunday. PS - One way to back up the students risking arrest at XL Dissent this weekend is to pledge to match their commitment. Sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance and join the civil disobedience movement to stop the pipeline.

VIDEO: Thousands Take Action Saying #NOKXL

[caption id="attachment_23152" align="alignleft" width="300"]seattle credo Climate Vigil in Seattle[/caption] On January 31, the U.S. State Department released its final environmental impact statement on Keystone XL. The report was heavily influenced by the oil industry, but it still gave the president everything he needs to reject Keystone XL. Within 72 hours, over 10,000 of us gathered at an astounding 283 vigils for the climate in 49 states to speak out against Keystone XL. It was the biggest rapid-response, on-the-ground demonstration of Obama's presidency. Now, Secretary Kerry will make a recommendation to the President, and the President will make a final decision. This is an all in-moment for the future of our planet. Watch the video of the climate vigils here:


More than 78,000 have already signed the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, committing to risk arrest, if necessary, to stop Keystone XL and send a message to the President that we must move forward on climate. We must defeat Keystone XL. Join us and take the pledge:

INFOGRAPHIC: 12 reasons to reject Keystone XL

It’s not a matter of if Keystone XL will spill, but when. Pipelines carrying tar sands have a horrible track record. In early 2013, 80,000 gallons of tar sands crude devastated a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, AK. And 2010 saw the worst oil spill in Michigan State history when a tar sands pipeline spilled 900,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River. TransCanada, the company building Keystone XL, might have the worst record of any pipeline company. Its Keystone 1 pipeline, the predecessor to Keystone XL, spilled 12 times the first year after its construction. Preventing this kind of spill is one reason why everyone needs to speak up and tell Secretary of State John Kerry that Keystone XL is not in our national interest. It’s also not just when the pipeline will spill, but where. Keystone XL runs over Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer*—one of the world’s largest underground aquifers, providing 30% of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation and drinking water to millions. An oil spill in the Ogallala would be devastating. But don’t take my word for it. Heather Libby at TckTckTck and Emma Pullman from DeSmog Blog made this excellent infographic to illustrate the point. Check it out: Keystone XL Infographic TAKE ACTION: Tell Sec. John Kerry to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. *Since this infographic was published, Nebraskans successfully organized to reroute Keystone XL to protect the fragile Sand Hills area. But the pipeline still threatens the Oglalla Aquifer.

3 Outrageous Claims the Media Is Making About Keystone XL

Here are the 3 most outrageous things the media is saying about the Keystone XL pipeline: “Tar sands oil will be developed and transported to the gulf coast, with or without a pipeline...” You can read the full #KXLBullshit from Newsweek here. The Keystone XL pipeline and the future development of tar sands is not inevitable, in fact to secure a stable climate, we must keep this dirty fuel in the ground. It’s clear to all of us that tar sands oil shouldn't be transported at all, by pipe or train or llama or bucket brigade! “It will create thousands of jobs and will have minor environmental impacts.” KXL_Badge You can read the full #KXLBullshit from Forbes here. Yes, a couple thousand jobs would be created temporarily to build it. After that, the consensus is that around 35 permanent jobs would be created in an economy of 150 million people. Does this factor in economic instability and displacement caused by climate change? No, because it’s pure #KXLBullshit. “Environmentalists get back to your serious work, the Keystone XL isn’t it.” You can read the Washington Post’s editorial board taking their work "seriously" here. Hey “Editorial Board,” what could be more serious than a thousand-mile-long tar sands pipeline that threatens millions of people’s water and contributes the equivalent of 6 million tailpipes-worth of climate pollution every year? Yeah, you get the coveted triple-starred #KXLBullshit award on this one. Have you seen any outrageous claims about Keystone XL in the media? If you do, call it out using the hashtag #KXLBullshit. Tell the State Department you think the entire thing is #KXLBullshit HERE.  

#NOKXL: Thousands Across The U.S. Say “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”

[caption id="attachment_22961" align="alignleft" width="290"]boston Boston, MA. Pic by Adam Greenberg.[/caption] We can’t stop. We won’t stop. Our Indigenous friends and allies in the U.S. and Canada have vowed to not let the “Keystone XL Black Snake” cross their sacred land. In Nebraska, 115 landowners refuse to sign agreements with TransCanada and are willing to engage in civil disobedience. Over 76,000 have pledged to put their bodies on the line in non-violent civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. Tonight, the fight against Keystone XL got very loud from coast to coast as thousands turned out in the towns, cities and neighborhoods to tell Barack Obama that we won’t be standing for his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. 284 events. 49 states plus Washington D.C. and parts of Canada. Over 10,000 turned out. All with on 3 days of mass organizing and outreach. That is powerful stuff.  Obama and the oil industry can only expect more. Here’s some images from tonight’s vigils telling Obama a really clear simple message: NO KXL. [caption id="attachment_22962" align="alignnone" width="500"]Jacksonville, FL Jacksonville, FL[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_22963" align="alignnone" width="500"]New York City New York City[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_22964" align="alignnone" width="500"]Witchita, KS Witchita, KS[/caption]   Check out more vigil photos from across the country in the map below or click here to go straight to the photoset.

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