Friday, September 27, 2013

Local Keystone XL activists 'Draw the Line' on pipeline proposal

By Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | News
Wednesday September 25, 2013

LANCASTER- To bring awareness to local communities and send a message to U.S. President Barrack Obama, more than 200 groups in 49 states rallied together last Saturday against the Keystone XL pipeline, the expansion of the Canadian tar sands, and other dirty energy projects that are worsening the climate crisis.

“The National Day of Action” called “Draw the Line” rallies were led by, a grass roots movement that is helping lead the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, pushing for fossil fuel divestment, and organizing global power shift.

Right here in Lancaster, a handful of concerned citizens, part of the organization, held signs protesting and demanding that President Obama deny the permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

“ is a global organization dedicated to combating the climate crisis,” said Lancaster resident, Alison Schweichler, LCSW. “So, it takes different forms in different areas. One center issue we have been working on is the Keystone XL pipeline and the decision for this pipeline is in President Obama’s hands. They took the initiative to plan this day of action against the pipeline.”

The number 350 stands for the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What many believe is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Activist Dave Kowalski explained back in pre-industrial times the level was 280 parts per million and today it is 400.

“So, it keeps climbing and it just hasn’t stopped, because more and more fossil fuels are burning around the world,” said Kowalski. “The scientist that choose 350, James Hansen, picked that number from looking back in time and determining that it was the safest upper level of carbon dioxide during which civilization has evolved. Anything above that number we need to worry about it and start cutting back on fossil fuels burning.”

Unless there is a decrease, the risk of reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt could happen.

Schweichler commented they made not live where the pipeline is happening, but there are dangers it brings to other areas.

“It might not be in our backyard, but this pipeline would bring very dirty tar sands oil from Canada which contributes to global warming and harms people all around the world,” remarked Schweichler.

More than 1,500 people have been arrested to stop Keystone XL and on Feb. 17 more than 40,000 people went to Washington to express to the president that Keystone XL is not in the national interest. Credo Mobile, Other 98 and Rainforest Action Network have collected pledges from more than 75,000 people who are willing to risk arrest to stop the pipeline. A diverse coalition of environmentalists, inner-city residents living near refineries, and rural landowners have come together to oppose the pipeline’s southern leg in Texas as well.

In June, pipeline opponents were heartened by Obama’s Georgetown climate comments about Keystone XL when he stated he would oppose the pipeline if it would “significantly” increase greenhouse gas emission.

According to Schweichler, independent analysts, environmentalists, and the tar sands industry all agree that Keystone XL will increase emissions and is the lynch pin to the industry’s stated goal of increasing production from today’s 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 bpd million by 2030.

Over the project’s 50-year timeline, Keystone XL would add between 935 million and 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere at a time when the World Bank and International Energy Administration are warning that some 66 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if we are to have even a small chance at stopping the climate crisis.

“We want to hold Obama to his word that he cares about climate change and he is going to do something about it,” said Kowalski. “So, this is a test.”

Schweichler said while the proposed pipeline has brought everyone together, it connects all of them to a whole host of other issues, including saying no to dangerous, dirty fossil fuels and yes to renewable energy.

The day also focused on reminding the community about the risks of fracking, a natural gas drilling technique that goes miles underground to break up shale rock using water, sand, and toxic chemicals.

In Pennsylvania, residents living in areas with fracking operations have reported flammable tap water, unexplained health problems, increased municipal costs, degradation of air quality, huge increases in truck traffic, and the list goes on. With fracking posed to happen in New York State if we don’t stop it - now is the time to act, said Schweichler, who is also a climate leader for The Climate Reality Project, an organization lead by Al Gore that focuses on the climate crisis.

“Over a year ago, I brought a perfect, beautiful baby into this word,” explain Schweichler. “I’m going to do everything I can to help him have the wonderful future he deserves. Unfortunately, his future is already threatened by dirty energy being obtained in increasingly dangerous ways like tar sands oil and fracking. It’s scary to look him into the eyes and see what’s possible coming in his future if we don’t do anything about it. It’s time we work harder at educating the public and telling our elected officials we are going the draw the line to protect what we love—our families, our communities, our livelihoods.”

Back in 2007, Kowalski organized a climate event in Buffalo, which he said pretty much focused on the same issues as of today - stop burning fossil fuels and growing a green economy based on renewable energy.

“I care about my children, I care about my grandchildren, and the future generations to come, which is something we have to somehow get industries to start doing,” said Kowalski. “You have to press. This is a slow change. This is a monument change. Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy that’s huge and we have made a lot of progress since 2007 in the country.”

Over the coming months, and its allies will continue to turn up the pressure on the White House to reject Keystone XL and slow tar sands development. The climate campaign plans on releasing a flashy, online presentation that makes the climate case against Keystone XL. On October 18 through Oct. 21, thousands of people are expected to attend US Power Shift, an activist summit hosted by anti-pipeline group Energy Action Coalition.

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