Enviros -- including the Sierra Club -- Face Arrest over Tar Sands Pipeline
February 14, 2013
CBS Local & The Sierra Club
More than 40 celebrities and environmentalists -- including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Julian Bond, Bill McKibben, Daryl Hannah and NASA climate scientist James Hansen -- were arrested after tying themselves to the White House gate to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune also was arrested. It was the first time in the group's 120-year history that a club leader was arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
Celebs, Enviros Arrested At
White House Pipeline Protest
WASHINGTON, DC (February 13, 2013) -- Celebrities and environmental activists, including lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and civil rights leader Julian Bond, were arrested Wednesday after tying themselves to the White House gate to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune also was arrested -- the first time in the group's 120-year history that a club leader was arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club's board of directors approved the action as a sign of its opposition to the $7 billion pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Activist Bill McKibben, actress Daryl Hannah and NASA climate scientist James Hansen also were arrested, along with more than 40 others. They were charged with failure to disperse and obey lawful orders, and released on $100 bond each.
The protesters are demanding that President Barack Obama reject the pipeline, which they say would carry "dirty oil" that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.
Many business and labor groups support the 1,700-mile pipeline as a source of jobs and a step toward North American energy independence.
The 4-year-old project has become a flashpoint in the debate over climate change, with opponents labeling it a "carbon bomb" that could trigger global warming. Supporters call that rhetoric overblown and say Obama should approve the pipeline as part of his "all of the above" energy policy, which encourages a wide range of domestic energy development.
In an interview before his arrest, Brune said civil disobedience was justified because of the threat posed by tar sands oil, which is difficult to produce and emits significantly more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest environmental group and generally shies away from extreme tactics.
"We want to send a strong message that we expect the president's ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge and reject a pipeline that carries dirty, thick oil" that contributes to global warming, Brune said. The president's supporters want Obama to "fight with both fists" against climate change, Brune said.
The made-for-media protest came ahead of a rally planned for Sunday on the National Mall, where organizers are expecting at least 20,000 people to protest the tar sands pipeline and urge Obama to act forcefully on climate change.
Kennedy, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York-based environmental group, said he was being arrested "with regret," noting that he would prefer to contest the pipeline in court -- and may eventually do so.
Kennedy, whose father was an attorney general and U.S. senator, called the pipeline "a boondoggle of monumental proportions" that will "ruin the lives of millions of people," through increased carbon pollution and likely spills.
Obama was visiting a manufacturing plant in North Carolina when the demonstration occurred. As he made his way to a factory in Asheville, protesters held signs saying "Stop coal" and "No to Keystone."
Obama has called climate change a serious threat and in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night urged Congress to combat the phenomenon. If Congress fails to act, he will use executive authority to take steps to cut greenhouse gas pollution and encourage increased use of cleaner sources of energy, Obama said.
Obama has twice thwarted the Keystone XL pipeline because of concerns over its route through sensitive land in Nebraska, but has not indicated how he will decide on the pipeline now that Nebraska's governor has approved a new route. The State Department has authority over the project, because it crosses an international border, but most observers expect Obama to make the final decision.
Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, said he participated in the pipeline protest "because I'm an American and I'm worried about the planet." He called the pipeline a human-rights issue, since many landowners in the six states where it will travel have been unable to resist Calgary-based TransCanada, the pipeline operator, as it seizes their property.
Bond also said the pipeline will exacerbate pollution problems near the Houston refineries where it will be processed, including neighborhoods where minorities predominate. The pipeline will travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before reaching Texas.
Bond, 73, said he was unhappy at the prospect of being arrested. "My mother told me I'd never get a job" if he got arrested, he said.
As Bond and others were being arrested, the American Petroleum Institute, the largest lobbying group for the oil industry, again urged Obama to approve the project. The group said it will pay for ads supporting the pipeline and will mobilize grassroots events across the country urging Obama's approval.
API President Jack Gerard called Keystone XL "the most thoroughly vetted major infrastructure project in the nation's history" and noted that TransCanada has agreed to 57 special conditions sought by the U.S. government to ensure environmental safety.
With the unemployment rate hovering near 8 percent, "getting people into these new jobs is critical," Gerard said.
In the past week, nine people have been arrested in attempts to disrupt the pipeline's construction through Oklahoma. One of the eight people arrested Monday near Schoolton, Okla., had attached himself to a crane and was freed by a firefighter using bolt cutters.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Sierra Club to Engage in Civil Disobedience for the First Time in Organization's History to Stop Tar Sands
The Sierra Club
San Francisco, CA (February 13, 2013) -- The Sierra Club Board of Directors has approved the one-time use of civil disobedience for the first time in the organization's 120-year history.
Recognizing the imminent danger posed by climate disruption, including record heat waves, drought, wildfires and the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, the Sierra Club board of directors has suspended a long-standing Club policy to allow, for one time, the organization to lead a group of environmental activists, civil rights leaders, visionaries, scientists, and other high-profile individuals in a peaceful protest to dirty and dangerous tar sands. The action will be by invitation only and is being co-sponsored by 350.org.
"For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director.
"We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it -- would be unconscionable. As the president said in his inaugural address, 'to do so would betray our children and future generations.'"
"The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We've worked hard and we have had great success - helping establish historic fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants, and helping grow a clean energy economy.
"But time is running out, and the stakes are enormous. We can't afford to lose a single major battle. The burning of dirty tar sands crude is one of those major battles. That's why the Sierra Club's Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience," said Brune.
"The recent decision made by the Board of Directors is not one we take lightly," said Allison Chin, Sierra Club President. "As a nation, we are beginning to achieve significant success in the fight against climate disruption. But allowing the production, transport, export and burning of the dirtiest oil on Earth now would be a giant leap backwards in that progress. The Board is answering the urgency of this threat with our decision to engage, for one time, in civil disobedience."
The Sierra Club will continue to use all other legitimate tools and channels to protect the nation's water, air, land and people from polluters, and will focus intensely on moving the nation to safe, clean energy alternatives and away from the fossil fuels that have caused the climate crisis.
From Walden to the White House
Michael Brune, Executive Director / The Sierra Club
(January 22, 2013) -- If you could do it nonstop, it would take you six days to walk from Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond to President Barack Obama's White House. For the Sierra Club, that journey has taken much longer. For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every "lawful means" to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further.
Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We'll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.
Some of you might wonder what took us so long. Others might wonder whether John Muir is sitting up in his grave. In fact, John Muir had both a deep appreciation for Thoreau and a powerful sense of right and wrong. And it's the issue of right versus wrong that has brought the Sierra Club to this unprecedented decision.
For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet's climate.
As President Obama eloquently said during his inaugural address, "You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas."
As citizens, for us to give up on stopping runaway global temperatures would be all the more tragic if it happened at the very moment when we are seeing both tremendous growth in clean energy and firsthand evidence of what extreme weather can do.
Last year, record heat and drought across the nation wiped out half of our corn crop and 60 percent of our pasturelands. Wildfires in Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere burned nearly nine million acres. And superstorm Sandy brought devastation beyond anyone's imagining to the Eastern Seaboard.
We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it -- would be unconscionable. As the president said on Monday, "to do so would betray our children and future generations." It couldn't be simpler: Either we leave at least two-thirds of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, or we destroy our planet as we know it. That's our choice, if you can call it that.
The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We've worked hard and brought all of our traditional tactics of lobbying, electoral work, litigation, grassroots organizing, and public education to bear on this crisis. And we have had great success -- stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants, and helping grow a clean energy economy.
But time is running out, and there is so much more to do. The stakes are enormous. At this point, we can't afford to lose a single major battle. That's why the Sierra Club's Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.
In doing so, we're issuing a challenge to President Obama, who spoke stirringly in his inaugural address about how America must lead the world on the transition to clean energy. Welcome as those words were, we need the president to match them with strong action and use the first 100 days of his second term to begin building a bold and lasting legacy of clean energy and climate stability.
That means rejecting the dangerous tar sands pipeline that would transport some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, and other reckless fossil fuel projects from Northwest coal exports to Arctic drilling. It means following through on his pledge to double down again on clean energy, and cut carbon pollution from smokestacks across the country. And, perhaps most of all, it means standing up to the fossil fuel corporations that would drive us over the climate cliff without so much as a backward glance.
One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr., although it has its roots in the writings of Theodore Parker (an acquaintance of Henry David Thoreau): "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
I believe that, given sufficient time, our government would certainly follow the moral arc that leads to decisive action on this crisis. We have a democracy, and the tide of public opinion has shifted decisively. What's more, I doubt that even the most ardent climate denier actually wants to destroy our world.
We have a clear understanding of the crisis. We have solutions. What we don't have is time. We cannot afford to wait, and neither can President Obama.
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