WASHINGTON — Activists protested the Keystone XL oil pipeline outside the State Department on Friday, the last day for public input on the proposal.
Opponents of the pipeline including representatives from dozens of environmental and social justice organizations marched from a nearby park to the entrance of the department, where several speakers rallied support from the crowd of about 100.
“Young people have been at the forefront of fighting Keystone XL,” said Maura Cowley, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition. “We are saying no to Keystone XL, so damn it, let’s go. Let’s fight. Let’s win.”
The demonstrators carried more than 20 boxes to represent more than 2 million comments on the proposal that have been filed with the department.
Tasked by President Barack Obama to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, the State Department sought public comments from Feb. 5 through Friday, March 7 on TransCanada Corporation’s proposal to build the pipeline. The department released an analysis of the proposal in January, and will give a final recommendation to the president sometime in the next few months.
The protest closely follows another anti-Keystone demonstration last Sunday in front of the White House where nearly 400 young protesters were arrested after they tied themselves to the surrounding fence.
“I want to hold President Obama accountable for his promises,” said 21-year-old Michelle Stearn, a Georgetown student attending Friday’s march who was arrested at the White House demonstration.
Environmental activist Andrew Nazdin, who worked for Obama’s presidential campaign in Virginia, said if Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, he will be betraying young people who voted for him.
“I did not work 15-hour days for this pipeline,” he said about his time working for the campaign. “I did not train hundreds of people across the state of Virginia for this pipeline.”
Keystone XL would connect existing pipelines and allow the transport of more than 800,000 barrels of oil daily from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas, according to a report by the State Department. Groups like 350.org, an organization dedicated to combating global warming, argue the pipeline would contribute to climate change by facilitating and prolonging America’s dependence on oil.
“If we dig all of this carbon out of the ground and burn it, it’s game over for the climate,” 350.org spokesman Jason Kowalski said. “There is no credible path to solving climate change that involves extracting tar sands oil.”
According to the State Department’s report, the Keystone XL project would create more than 42,000 U.S. jobs during the two years of pipeline construction. After it is built, pipeline would require about 35 permanent employees.
Supporters of Keystone XL say the pipeline would create valuable jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“The needlessly long review of the Keystone XL pipeline continues to deprive thousands of Americans of good-paying jobs and the nation of a vital piece of energy infrastructure,” Cindy Schild, an official at the oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters during a teleconference Thursday.
However, protesters at the rally Friday argued the environmental damage from Keystone would outweigh the benefits of the project.
“I’m young and I want the ability to say that I’ve had an impact on this planet for the better,” said 24-year-old anti-Keystone protester Hannah Blatt, who works in Washington. “Going with dirty oil is not the way to do that.”