November 7, 2011

Cornellians Protest Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, D.C.

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More than 40 Cornellians joined 12,000 protesters from around the United States in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, if constructed, will transport oil from tar sands near Alberta, Canada, to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.

Several Cornell groups were represented at the protest, including the Cornell Democrats and KyotoNOW!

In September, six students were arrested in a protest against the Keystone pipeline. No Cornellians were arrested Sunday.

KyotoNOW! organized two buses that provided transportation to and from the protest for more than 100 students for Cornell, Ithaca College and members of the local community.

According to Wes Cornell ’15, a member of KyotoNOW! who went to Washington, the event started on Sunday afternoon when several speakers — including famed environmentalist, scientist and journalist Bill McKibben — kicked off the protest in Lafayette Park, which is adjacent to the White House.

From there, the Cornellians and protesters circled the White House, forming a chain by linking arms and holding hands. Cornell said the chain symbolized the communal effort against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

After the protesters circled the White House, they walked through the streets from the White House to McPheason Square while being escorted by police officers.

Protesters decried the potential environmental consequences of the Keystone Pipeline, which the U.S. State Department will either approve or reject by the end of 2011. However, the State Department has said the plan is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Additionally, according to TransCanada data supplied to the State Department, the project will create between 2,500 and 4,560 construction jobs in the U.S.

“Countless climate scientists have claimed that this project would release a tremendous amount of carbon, with the potential to cause irreversible damage to our climate,” K.C. Alvey ’12, co-president of KyotoNOW! and a participant in the protest, said in an email. “It’s one year before the next presidential election, and we went to D.C. to remind President Obama just who got him elected in 2008.”

Cornell said Sunday’s protest built off the momentum of the arrests in September.

“This protest, unlike the one in September, was not focused around arrests. We showed in the last protest that we are willing to put ourselves on the line and to be arrested for the cause of stopping the pipeline,” he said. “With this base of power, we went into this protest.”

Hallie Mitnick ’12, the director of public relations for the Cornell Democrats, said that the Cornell Democrats “wholeheartedly” support the protest.

“We feel that the Keystone XL pipeline would have disastrous environmental consequences and thus [we] do not support it,” Mitnick said. “I feel that our focus needs to be on alternative energy and conservation, not using the same old sources of energy that are so detrimental to the environment.”

Alvey said the protest was held outside the White House to show Obama the potential electoral repercussions of accepting the pipeline.

“When President Obama was elected, I rejoiced through the streets with hundreds of other Cornell students, feeling an immense sense of hope and that Obama would lead America to a just and sustainable future,” Alvey said. “We have been incredibly disappointed in Obama’s lack of leadership on climate change … Obama would be foolish to alienate his progressive base by approving this pipeline.”

However, some who opposed the pipeline, such as Cornell Democrats President Tony Montgomery ’12, said they will vote for Obama regardless of his decision on the pipeline.

“President Obama’s action regarding this pipeline might influence my opinion on his environmental record one way or the other, but there is no chance that his action, or rather, inaction, would cause me to vote for someone else in 2012,” Montgomery said.

Original Author: Margaret Yoder