Friday, April 18, 2014
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On Jan. 26, 1,400 protesters made Portland a regional focal point against the extraction and transportation of Canada’s tar sands oil. For environmentalists, the rally was about more than just a pipeline.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
Oil industry and labor groups are pushing for President Obama to approve Keystone XL this year, saying thousands of jobs and North America's energy independence hangs in the balance.
Keystone XL signifies one major route from Alberta for tar sands oil. Another direction, west to British Columbia for export to China, is being opposed by Canadian activists and indigenous people.
The Feb. 17 rally is designed to show Obama the depth of opposition to Keystone XL. Some opponents say they are encouraged by the president's statement during his inauguration: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."
The president's comments resonate with Becky Halbrook of Phippsburg. A retired corporate lawyer, she has two grandchildren. In her view, petroleum today is similar to how tobacco was viewed years ago: People still use it and make money from it, but new evidence shows grave risks and it's time to kick the habit.
Halbrook says she has been inspired by Hansen's 350 calculation. She feels strongly enough about the threat of climate change that she went to Washington, D.C., two years ago, for an earlier Keystone XL protest. It was a call for civil disobedience at the White House, and she was arrested along with 54 other people.
Halbrook went to the Portland rally and is making plans for Washington. The size of the crowd and robust media coverage, she says, are crucial to encouraging policymakers to block the pipelines and, in turn, put a lid on climate change.
"This isn't simply a matter of 'not in my backyard,' " she said. "It's more than just a pipeline leaking into a river."
Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:
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Environmental activist Bill McKibben speaks to the Vermont Legislature last week in Montpelier. The author’s speaking engagement at the State Theatre in November helped build interest in the Jan. 26 tar-sands protest in Portland.
The Associated Press