As Congress Moves to Fast-track Keystone XL Pipeline, Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience at the White House

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

20 July 2011 Washington, DC -- On the same day as the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to approve a text saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "should promptly authorize" the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the executive directors of leading environmental groups released a letter calling for massive sit-ins at the White House this August to pressure President Obama to deny the pipeline the permit necessary for construction.(1)

The letter begins: “We're the leaders of some of the continent's environmental and allied groups, and we're doing something odd here: writing not in our professional capacities, but as individuals, to urge you to consider taking part in planned protests later this summer in Washington.” 

Signatories include the executive directors of the Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Day Network, Rainforest Action Network, Green America,, CREDO Mobile, and more. 

The letter comes on the heels of a call issued by activists Bill McKibben, Danny Glover, Naomi Klein, Gus Speth, Wendell Berry and others inviting people to risk arrest at the White House between August 20 and September 3rd. 

Environmental groups say today’s house vote ups the ante for the fight over the proposed pipeline. 

“The Foreign Affairs Committee’s vote of support for the Keystone XL pipeline is functionally a vote against the national security interests of the Unites States,” said Rebecca Tarbotton, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “Building the pipeline locks the US into decades more of its addiction to oil at a time when it should be growing a new clean energy economy.”

Ultimately, the ability to grant approval for the pipeline rests with the Obama administration. (2)

“Today’s vote turns up the pressure on President Obama,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of and a leading environmental writer. “This is a stark choice for the administration to make. They can go with fossil fuel industry or they can go with the scientists who’ve told us it’s ‘game over’ for the climate if these tar sands get developed.” 

Over 1,100 people have already registered at to take part in the August sit-ins. Participants range from indigenous elders from Alberta to Nebraska ranchers who have land  threatened by the pipeline route. Organizers are expecting at least 50 to 100 people to risk arrest at the White House every day between August 20th and September 3rd. 

“Clearly, proponents of the pipeline are moving quickly but opposition is building just as fast and even more widespread,” said McKibben. “Today’s letter confirms that the struggle over the Keystone XL pipeline will be the biggest environmental fight of the year.”


Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: