The fight over the construction of Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline reached a pivotal moment on Sunday when an estimated ten thousand demonstrators gathered outside of the White House to call on President Obama to reject the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that, if approved by the White House, could pump millions of barrels of crude oil from tar sands in Canada to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.
“We’re here today to stand together and say, we believe in a brighter future,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Founding Director John Adams in prepared remarks on Sunday. “We’re here today to stand together and say, we believe in a brighter future. Instead of building a pipeline to the past, it’s time to draw a line in the sand, and it’s time to draw the line on tar sands. That’s the line we’re drawing here today.”
Since the pipeline crosses an international border, the decision to issue the permit rests with the State Department, which is expected to complete its review of the pipeline by the end of the year. But President Obama in a statement on Tuesday vowed to take final ownership of the decision, in what has become arguably the most important, high-profile environmental issues facing him before the 2012 election.
Actor Mark Ruffalo, activist Bill McKibben and Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune were among the thousands to join hands around the White House in a culmination of the protests that kicked off in August. Protesters encircled the White House as they called on the president to reject TransCanada’s 1,700-mile oil pipeline that they fear will contribute irrevocably to global warming. Some carried a long, black tubular float that read “Stop The XL Pipeline.” Others wore orange safety vests to remind spectators of the threat of potential spills.
If it leaks, the pipeline could contaminate the 174,000 square-mile Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to roughly two million people in the American heartland. That’s an especially big concern for residents in the state of Nebraska, where the pipeline stretches some 257 miles through the state’s midsection. And there is little comfort in the long history of leaks in Sargent County, N.D., and Bendena, Kan., at an existing TransCanada oil pipeline known as Keystone 1.