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Urgent Request to Stop Southern Leg of Keystone XL Pipeline Ignored by White House

4:47 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

[The following letter was sent to the White House on Dec. 10 at the invitation of President Obama's Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. This urgent request from embattled Texas landowners for a face-to-face meeting with the president has so far been ignored. TransCanada has announced plans to bring the southern leg of Keystone XL pipeline commercially on line Jan. 22.]
StopThePipelineRally7.RRITC.WDC.7October2011
Valerie Jarrett
Senior Advisor to President Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Ms. Jarrett,

Thank you for your recent visit to the Fast4Families tent on the National Mall. I appreciate you taking the time to hear the stories of those of us fasting for immigration reform, and the role you undoubtedly played in the President’s subsequent visit to the fasting tent, where he thanked fasters for our collective “sacrifice and dedication.”

I especially want to thank you for speaking with me afterwards to hear my request for a face-to-face meeting with President Obama to discuss stopping Keystone XL in its entirety–starting with shutting down the pipeline’s 485-mile southern leg in Texas and Oklahoma. I voiced similar requests to Vice President Biden, Denis McDonough, Cecilia Munoz and Tom Perez when they visited the fasting tent, each of whom is copied on this correspondence. You invited me to send you a letter requesting a meeting, and outlining our objections to Keystone XL, which you offered to share with the President.

In light of the fact that TransCanada began injecting oil into Keystone XL’s southern leg on Saturday, with plans to bring the pipeline commercially on line by January 3, it is urgent that we meet with President Obama before the end of the year to identify immediate actions the administration can take to prevent this project from delivering tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

This letter is co-signed by several east Texas landowners whose rights have been violated by construction of the pipeline’s southern leg; a matriarch of the Great Sioux Nation whose treaty rights stand to be violated by construction of the pipeline’s northern leg; two prominent faith leaders; and two national environmental leaders. Given the urgency of this matter, your help in arranging a sit-down with President Obama before the end of the year would be most appreciated.

Michael Bishop, Julia Trigg Crawford and Eleanor Fairchild are three of numerous landowners in Texas and Oklahoma who currently have sections of Keystone XL pipeline buried beneath their property against their will.

Mr. Bishop is a Marine veteran who has several lawsuits filed to stop the pipeline’s southern leg, including one to revoke Army Corps water-crossing permits that were issued without public hearings, as required by law. His response to those who says it’s too late to stop the project is: “The pipe is in there illegally. That’s like arguing that if a burglar is already in your house, well, now they have a right to be there.”

Ms. Crawford, a Texas farmer who describes the pipeline as “all risk and no reward,” is challenging TransCanada in court for abusing eminent domain laws to take her family’s property for private use and private economic gain. Despite the late hour, she also maintains, “It is not too late for President Obama to right this great wrong.”

Mrs. Fairchild is a 78-year-old great-grandmother who refused to play ball with TransCanada and was subsequently arrested for “trespassing” on her own land and labeled an “eco-terrorist” by the company. She has since traveled to Michigan to see for herself the devastating effects of the three-year old Kalamazoo River tar sands spill (the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history) and says, “Texans do not want this pipeline forced through their homes.”

All three of these Texas landowners have vitally important information to share with the President about TransCanada’s abusive, deceitful and unjust treatment of U.S. citizens.

Lakota matriarch Debra White Plume will share with the President the unshakable determination of the Great Sioux Nation to nonviolently resist any attempt by TransCanada to build the northern leg of Keystone XL across their treaty territory. Such construction would violate the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which was ratified by Congress. The pipeline would also endanger the Oglala Lakota’s sole source of drinking water, putting the lives and health of their people at risk. A series of well-attended “Moccasins on the Ground” nonviolent direct action trainings have already been held to ensure that the pipeline does not cross treaty territory.

Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown will share with the President why America needs to be shooting for the moon with renewable energy, not drilling our way deeper into the climate hole with extreme fossil fuel projects like Keystone XL’s southern leg. A green energy “moon shot” will reinvigorate America’s economy and generate many more jobs than our nation’s current energy policies. The urgency of the climate crisis demands an emergency mobilization–similar to how the U.S. in 1942 restructured our industrial economy in a matter of months–to cut U.S. carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica will share with the President the myriad of risks posed by Keystone XL’s southern leg, including the potential for this continental carbon bomb to ignite catastrophic climate change. By evading a transparent and thorough review of the pipeline’s likely impacts, TransCanada has not only jeopardized the American people’s rights to clean air and clean water, but is also putting U.S. taxpayers at serious financial risk from tar sands oil spills.

Father Jacek Orzechowski and Franciscan Action Network Executive Director Patrick Carolan, who embrace the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and his call for the protection of creation, will share with the President the perspective of Franciscans and other faith leaders who object to Keystone XL in its entirety on moral grounds.

There is a better way.

In June, the President pledged during his televised climate action speech, “I am willing to work with anybody–Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Greens–anybody–to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.”

Our idea is to refrain from taking actions that will make matters worse. Knowing that the southern leg of Keystone XL will exacerbate the climate threat, by allowing more than half a million barrels of climate-destroying tar sands to flow daily from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, it is indefensible, from a climate perspective, for the Obama administration to allow this project to go commercially on line. The President himself stated during a July 24, 2013 interview with The New York Times: “I’m going to evaluate this [Keystone pipeline] based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere.”

As documented in a recent Sierra Club report, FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test, the Keystone pipeline is a linchpin to more tar sands development, and increased tar sands development will significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. Read the rest of this entry →

Boulder’s 100-Year Flood & Weather Weirding

3:13 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

I have lived in Boulder for nearly 30 years and have never seen anything — weatherwise — like what I’ve witnessed these past two years.

An army vehicle among Colorado flooding.

Colorado is experiencing catastrphic flooding.

Last summer, standing in the front yard of my friends’ home in east Boulder, I watched pine trees near the iconic Flatirons burst into flames like matchsticks. We were in the midst of a severe drought, which had sparked a spate of deadly wildfires. Slurry bombers managed to extinguish that particular wildfire, but not before the National Center for Atmospheric Research — nestled on a bluff below the advancing flames — was evacuated. Consider the irony of the world’s leading climate research facility being evacuated due to climate-induced wildfires. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Last night, standing in the front yard of that same east Boulder home, I watched something else I never thought I would see here: a river of water flowing down a suburban street strong enough to carry away a child. Only an hour before, I had traversed this street effortlessly with just the gutters overflowing. Now water was lapping at the front yard and running swift like a river.

Earlier in the day, I stuck out on foot to see Boulder’s 100-year flood with my own eyes. It was a humbling sight. Here’s a dramatic video I captured of raging Boulder Creek.

After spending more time near the creek than one should, I headed to higher ground, only to discover that even on The Hill, one of Boulder’s higher neighborhoods, water was raging like a river down streets and into homes. Driveways had morphed into streams and steps into waterfalls. It was here that I stumbled upon a desperate effort at the intersection of University & 7th to reinforce a sand wall holding back the torrent of water and picked up a shovel. Here’s a video I took of the scene.

As a bunch of us worked to reinforce the wall with makeshift sandbags on our side of the street — ever cognizant of the possibility of cars upstream being washed down into our path — we watched the sand wall on the other side of the street completely wash away. When I left, our stopgap levee was still holding.

This is just what I saw. Elsewhere, precious lives have been tragically lost, and others have been dramatically saved. The National Guard is evacuating the nearby town of Lyons, which has become an island surrounded by floodwaters. And I fear worse news is yet to come from the vulnerable canyon communities upstream from Boulder.

Here’s what I think about what I’ve seen over the past two years in my home town: we have altered the climate so dramatically with polluting emissions that all bets are off as far as knowing what the weather will do from here on in. The age of weather weirding has arrived. If the weather-related disasters in Boulder, across America, and around the world are telling us anything, it’s that humanity is in for a rough ride. Brace yourself.

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President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Not Even Close

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

President Obama during his climate speech at Georgetown University on June 23.

In June, after more than four years as president, President Obama finally proposed a climate action plan for America. True to form, the president gave an eloquent speech, with strong words for those still in denial about the severity of the crisis we face: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

Unfortunately for all of us, the blueprint he presented is more PR than plan, and has zero chance of stabilizing the climate. To the contrary, it promises even more climate chaos by promoting frackingmountaintop removal coal miningoffshore and Arctic oil drilling and tar sands exploitation. It also threatens future generations with the specter of more radioactive nuclear power.

The president opened his speech with a poetic tribute to the Apollo program, a generational mission championed by President John F. Kennedy more than half a century ago. But no comparison can be made between Kennedy’s bold vision and Obama’s timid plan. At the moment in history when the moral urgency of the global climate crisis demands a U.S.-led green energy “moon shot,” President Obama offers us a cloud shot. Are we really supposed to take seriously the anemic goal of cutting carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 when experts like Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown have shown that nothing short of 80 percent carbon cuts by 2020 may be enough to save civilization?

Instead of calling out Obama on his hollow words, big national environmental groups—many with deep ties to the Democratic Party establishment and the Obama White House—fell over themselves congratulating the president on his speech. This, despite the fact that neither of America’s two corporate political parties has any intention of giving up their oil-soaked campaign contributions to take on the fossil fuel lobby.

Jon Queally, writing for Common Dreams, posed the right question: “With a showering of praise from ‘big green’ groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environment America—the last of which decided to launch an expensive ‘thank you’ TV ad for the president—is it possible that the environmental movement is easing off the pressure at exactly the moment they should be holding Obama’s feet more firmly to the fire?” This is exactly what many of these same groups did when the president postponed until after the election a decision on Keystone XL’s northern leg permit, only to see him turn around and fast-track the pipeline’s southern leg. Instead of learning from history, they repeat it.

With the aforementioned as context, let’s look at some of what the President actually said in his speech and how his words fail to translate into the action needed to help stabilize the climate in the short time humanity has left to act.

President Obama: “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. We’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas.”

Real World Translation: The President calls natural gas “clean,” despite knowing it’s a major greenhouse gas emitter. He calls natural gas “safe,” when the known dangers of fracking are causing communities across America to rise up against the poisoning of their local water supplies. The President’s plan would not only ramp up this dangerous technology domestically, but also export it overseas.

President Obama: “So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun.”

Real World Translation: This sounds impressive until you realize the percentage of America’s electricity currently generated by wind and solar power is in the single digits. The president’s plan ensures that the vast majority of our energy will continue to be generated from burning dirty fossil fuels.

President Obama: “So today, I’m setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years.”

Real World Translation: This is an example of the president’s “cloud shot” mentality. It would be like Kennedy announcing a goal of flying one-fifth of the way to the moon. Two Swiss explorers just flew day and night across America in a 100 percent solar powered airplane. If they can accomplish that in the air, America can do it on the ground.

President Obama: “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Real World Translation: Thanks to the president, the Keystone XL pipeline is already charging forward, with zero regard for carbon emissions or America’s interests. In fact, the pipeline is now 90 percent complete in Texas and Oklahoma. If Obama does not intervene to prevent the last stages of its construction, Keystone will open the floodgates to climate killing tar sands by transporting toxic tar sands from Canada to Texas refineries by the end of this year. TransCanada will accomplish this—with or without the pipeline’s northern leg—by connecting the southern leg of Keystone XL to the already built Keystone I.

President Obama: “We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades—in Georgia and South Carolina.”

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The Keystone XL Shuffle

3:58 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

President Barack Obama supports the construction of the Keystone XL's southern leg in Texas and Oklahoma.

For the past year, most blog posts, action alerts and appeals to “Stop Keystone XL,” “Reject Keystone XL,” “Fight Keystone XL” and “Resist Keystone XL” have focused on blocking the pipeline’s northern leg, while ignoring President Obama’s support for the 485-mile southern segment. During this time, TransCanada has been busy building that southern leg, which is now 75 percent constructed.

This should alarm every climate activist. As Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, warned in a recent editorial, when the Obama administration endorsed Keystone XL’s southern leg, “the spigot was opened to transport the climate-killing tar sands oil to refineries and ports in Texas.”

His editorial goes on to say: “What most U.S. citizens don’t know—including most progressives—is that when the southern pipeline segment starts flowing with tar sands oil in a short while, the fuse will have already ignited the (carbon) bomb.” Given that we just passed 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is time for every big national environmental group to demand that President Obama extinguish this 485-mile carbon bomb fuse, before it’s too late.

As someone who pedaled the entire route in 2011 in support of farmers, ranchers and tribal communities fighting this toxic tar sands pipeline, I am as committed as anyone to blocking TransCanada’s northern leg permit, but how can anyone seriously talk about stopping Keystone XL without mentioning the need to stop the actual construction now dangerously close to completion in Texas and Oklahoma?

The key to blocking Keystone XL’s northern leg is ensuring that Keystone XL’s southern leg never gets completed. If you agree, join me, and more than 5,000 others, in signing the “Tell President Obama to Stop Construction of the Southern Leg of Keystone XL” petition. We will be delivering the petition to the White House soon, in dramatic fashion.

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