Over 150 demonstrators chanted anti-Keystone Pipeline slogans along San Vicente Boulevard June 7 protesting the controversial Canadian project crossing America with thousands of miles of oil pipelines. Those pipelines cross the country’s breadbasket aquifer that could be contaminated permanently from oil leaks and spills.
The spirited protest aimed to get President Obama’s attention as his limousine passed to a La Mesa Drive fundraiser. The rally included dozens of Sierra Club members who waved signs to passing motorists demanding Obama not approve the final link in the Canadian-owned pipeline.
When finished, the pipeline will pump oil sands bitumen 2,151 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur on the Gulf Coast.
Critics of the pipeline decry its environmental impacts. Those include destruction of sensitive habitat and contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer through oil leaks and spills. Tar sands also contribute to global warming by continued reliance on petroleum-based energy supplies according to pipeline foes.
“This type of oil spill is extremely hard if not impossible to clean up,” said a Santa Monica resident named Carlos. “The pipeline is going straight through America’s heartland.”
Carlos declined to give his last name, pointing to two men working the crowd trying to get certain demonstrators they photographed to tell them their identities. One wore a realistic-looking Los Angeles Police Department press badge but with no media affiliation visible. He did not look like or conduct himself like a reporter. His partner took dozens of photographs of the protesters including Carlos.
Uniformed Los Angeles County sheriff’s entered the protest to remove an oil barrel prop presumably because the empty container presented a public danger. The President was several hundred yards away making the object suspect. The crowd cackled as the officers wrestled the plastic barrel into the back of a squad car.
Carlos’ protest sign reflected the frustration that people like him feel having to demonstrate in front of the President. It read “We Voted 4 You – Listen 2 Us – No 2 the Pipeline.”
“This will impact every living thing,” Carlos said. “The economic benefits will not out way the devastation of land, air and habitat.”
Unbeknownst to the protesters, a deranged gunman across town less than a mile from EnviroReporter.com offices went on a rampage killing five people before finally being shot dead at Santa Monica College. That tragic news eclipsed media coverage of the demonstration which ended up not being seen by Obama whose motorcade used a route that avoided the rally.
The protest was impressive especially considering that Americans now favor the pipeline by a whopping 82% according to a June 3 Harris Interactive Poll. Even as heavy Obama contributors like billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer ask the President to oppose the pipeline, the Administration shows no signs of stopping the massive project.
Outraging environmentalists, the State Department overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s negative take on the impacts of Keystone when the department released a positive report on the pipeline that was actually written by EnSys Energy which has worked with firms that have tar sands clientele. The firm has worked with BP, ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, all of which own oil sands production resources and refineries in the Midwest.
This extraordinary trumping of EPA regulations comes as a direct result of Obama Administration political pressure. This is one of the reasons another protester carried a sign reading “One Earth! One Home!”
“It always feels good to speak up for what you believe,” Barbara said, also requesting her last name not be published. “Participation and doing gives you a real sense of accomplishment which makes you strong and that makes you happy. That ultimately changes our consciousness and that makes the world a better place.”
Those kind sentiments were in poignant contrast to the slaughter taking place two miles away. The likelihood that the protesters will influence a President who has become the oil and gas industry’s best friend is unlikely, a somber reality not lost on them.
“Pipelines are always risky business,” Carlos said. “Ultimately it’s not what we need; it’s what a few players that will make billions want.”