WASHINGTON (ABP) – Environmental activists claimed a victory Nov. 10 when President Obama ordered an
environmental review of a proposed 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast called Keystone XL.
Advocates including the Canadian government say the underground 36-inch pipeline is an answer to U.S. reliance on oil from the Middle East. Opponents say it is unneeded and would have disastrous effect on the environment.
Led by environmentalist author and United Methodist layman Bill McKibben, thousands of demonstrators surrounded the White House Sunday, Nov. 6, urging the Obama administration to reject the project, which requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border.
Among an estimated 12,000 protestors were seven members of the Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, N.C., affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Christ.
“By the time we completed the circle, we were still three persons deep in most places,” Circle of Mercy member Greg Yost, accompanied by his wife, Terri Farless, and children, Will and Anna, said.
Yost and Circle of Mercy member Mark Siler, were among more than 1,200 people arrested during two weeks of civil disobedience opposed to the construction project in August and September.
Before the protests, McKibben said, the TransCanada pipeline was widely regarded as “a done deal.”
“Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone," he said. "One month ago, a secret poll of 'energy insiders' by the National Journal found that 'virtually all' expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end.”
McKibben cautioned that it was only a partial victory. While the environmental review postpones a decision until after the 2012 elections, the president didn't reject the pipeline permit outright.
Activists were encouraged, though, when Obama required that climate change along the pipeline route be part of the assessment. While there is still a slim chance it will survive scrutiny, most political and environmental activists believe the president’s action effectively kills the project.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.