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NEWS: Protests against Keystone in DC begin this morning

The Council of Canadians is supporting the call for sit-ins near the White House in protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (which would extend from the northern Alberta tar sands to refineries in Texas). The daily sit-ins are scheduled to start this morning (at approximately 10:30 am ET) and continue into early-September.

Earlier this summer, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, author and journalist Naomi Klein, scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki and others signed a letter that states, “This summer in Washington…the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.”

Today, the Vancouver Sun reports, “According to the website www.tarsandsaction.org, thousands of people from across the continent plan to take part in the two weeks of sit-ins starting mid-morning every day at the White House fences. The aim is to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to deny the Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.’s permit application to build the 2,700-kilometre, $7-billion pipeline, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels of oilsands crude per day from Alberta to Port Arthur, Texas. The U.S. State Department will make a ruling because the pipeline crosses an international boundary.”

The New York Times reports, “Keystone XL’s ascension from little-known commodity to fodder for a marquee bout between industry groups and environmentalists is set to start its last leg (Saturday), as green advocates converge on the White House for a two-week demonstration against the $7 billion proposal. …To be sure, many of Washington’s major green groups have aligned against Keystone XL, which would nearly double U.S. imports of Canadian oil sands crude if it wins approval, with a vehemence that (has) surprised pipeline supporters. …Among the groups signing up to head to Washington are representatives of indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the pipeline’s planned six-state route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The event is set to start (Saturday) with a march led by (350.org founder Bill) McKibben and Gus Speth, a former administrator of the U.N. Development Programme and top Carter administration environmental adviser.”

The Toronto Star adds, “In recent talks in Washington between Hillary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the secretary of state was exceedingly cautious when discussing the pipeline, a source familiar with the discussion said Friday. Canadian embassy officials have been devoting long hours to lobbying efforts. One lobbyist says cooler heads are prevailing for the moment, but that full-fledged panic will set in among pipeline proponents if there are any further delays in the process.”

The National Energy Board of Canada approved the construction of the Canadian section of the pipeline in September 2007. The Calgary Herald reported earlier this year that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a personal pitch (on February 4) for President Barack Obama to support (the) pipeline that could double the amount of Alberta oil sands crude exported to the United States (at the time they met to announce plans for a new security perimeter). Harper confirmed he pressed Obama on Calgary-based TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline during the two leaders’ hour-long meeting at the White House.”

President Obama is expected to make a decision on Keystone XL by the end of this year.