San Francisco Chronicle, February 18, 2013
Thousands protest Keystone XL pipeline
Thousands of people rallied in downtown San Francisco on Sunday to urge President Obama to reject construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, an action they said would prove he is committed to fighting global warming.
The demonstration across from the Ferry Building was held at the same time as similar events in cities including Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. The main event in Washington, D.C., drew tens of thousands of supporters in what was billed as the largest climate change rally in U.S. history.
Organizers of the San Francisco protest estimated that more than 4,000 people gathered to condemn the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would run nearly 2,000 miles to connect Canada's oil sands to refineries around the Gulf of Mexico. Because it would cross an international border, it requires Obama's approval.
"We're asking him to reject Keystone XL as one way to move forward on climate change," said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, a conservation organizer with the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, which planned the event along with 350.org, the Natural Resources Defense Council and several other groups.
Opponents of the pipeline, including Democrats and environmentalists, argue the project could contaminate land and water along its route, particularly in Nebraska, and release high concentrations of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by increasing oil production from tar sands.
But proponents say the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada, has agreed to obey 57 special conditions designed to keep the pipeline secure from leaks. The line would create thousands of jobs and strengthen the country's energy independence, they contend.
Canada views Keystone as a crucial step in furthering oil production and growing its economy. It would be the longest oil pipeline outside Russia and China, able to transport more than half a million barrels of crude oil daily.
Have Obama's back
But activists who rallied in San Francisco said Obama would be hypocritical to give Keystone the green light after promising in his inaugural address and State of the Union that he would work to combat climate change.
"I think he has his heart in the right place on climate change, but I think he's going to have to show tremendous backbone to make any progress on this issue," said Karen Kramer, 54, a lawyer and an artist in Oakland. "I hope for everyone's sake he can find the backbone. We're here to show him we have his back on this."
Kramer and her mother, Joan Allen, 78, a retired adoption worker in Berkeley, were part of a crowd that marched around One Market Plaza. The block contains an office of the U.S. State Department, which is responsible for permitting infrastructure projects that cross a border.
They chanted and held signs with slogans such as "Stop Tar Sands," "Tar Sands = Game Over For Us All," "Stop Keystone XL" and "Climate Action: It's Our Obligation."
They gathered in Justin Herman Plaza to listen to speakers who included San Francisco District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who touted CleanPowerSF, the city's proposed clean-energy program, and his call for the city's retirement system to divest from fossil fuel companies.
The speakers said that battling Keystone, along with pushing to reduce coal burning and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, was critical in preserving the environment for future generations.
That message resonated with Woody Little, 18, a UC Berkeley freshman who held a sign that read "Love Each Other, Love the Earth." Born one day too late to vote for Obama in the last election, he said he wanted climate change to be one of the president's achievements.
"It just doesn't make sense," he said. "Why would we be accessing this deposit, these tar sands' dirty oil, when there's so much out there to be used already?"
© 2013 Hearst Communications, Inc.
This article originally appeared here.
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