Today, President Obama announced a package of executive initiatives to address the escalating threat of climate change in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. In an unexpected Keystone XL announcement, the President stated that the “net effects of pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward.” The nations leading climate scientists and the President’s own EPA have repeatedly documented how Keystone XL would open the floodgates to the expansion of the Alberta tar sands and a dramatic increase in climate pollution.
In March 2012, President Obama fast-tracked the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline in a speech in Cushing, Oklahoma. Over the last year, grassroots organizations like Tar Sands Blockade and our friends at Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance have launched sustained nonviolent direct action campaigns to halt its construction. After a series of direct actions resulting in dozens of arrests, these groups have successfully delayed construction of the southern segment for weeks. Despite the construction delays, the tar sands pipeline is nearing completion later this year.
In addition to its climate pollution, Keystone XL will bring toxic tar sands refining to communities living in Houston’s East End and Port Arthur along Texas’ Gulf Coast, which are already among the most polluted in North America. Tar sands refining will only further increase the environmental burden on these low-income, communities of color – a clear case of environmental racism. For years, organizations like T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) have worked closely with these communities most impacted.
These two Texas-based grassroots organizations had the following statements in response to President Obama’s speech:
Bryan Parras, grew up in Houston’s East End and is the Youth and Media Coordinator for T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), said:
“I applaud the President’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon emissions, reinvest in alternative energies and efforts to lead international action on responsible climate change policies, but all that falls flat without complete divestment from the destructive extraction of the tar sands and rejection of any pipeline(s), trucks or rail that purport to deliver the toxic sludge to refineries in the U.S. The time for action is long overdue and only honest and comprehensive action can ensure that future generations will live in a cleaner more stable environment.”
Kim Huynh, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade, said:
“While it’s encouraging to hear the President voice his intentions to address climate change and Keystone XL’s climate impacts, we’re not holding our breath. After all, this is the same President that fast-tracked the southern segment of this pipeline to pump toxic tar sands through our homes. The construction of Keystone XL is opening the floodgates to the largest pool of carbon pollution in North America.
We’ll continue to organize and work together to connect our struggles against the root causes of the climate crisis. That’s why this week, thousands of people across the country are working as Fearless Summer to embody the courage to address the most urgent forms of extreme energy that are causing the wholesale destruction of our communities; like tar sands exploitation, natural gas fracking, and mountaintop removal coal mining. If the President doesn’t halt all forms of industrial extraction, we will.”