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Arrests mount in DC demonstration over Keystone XL pipeline

By Lynn Herrmann     Aug 26, 2011 in Environment
Washington - A final environmental assessment of TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline is expected to be released today by the US State Department, and with mounting protests over the project, environmental groups are almost certain of its approval.
As demonstrators in front of the White House continue being arrested in efforts to convince President Barack Obama of the proposed pipeline’s dangers, the State Department’s anticipated announcement allows TransCanada to clear its first hurdle in the $7 billion pipeline project which will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast.
“We haven't seen the analysis, but we are in regular contact with the State Department so we know what studies have been completed and we know they haven't done the studies we've asked for,” said Danielle Droitsch, senior adviser at the National Resources Defense Council, on Thursday, the Canadian Press reports.
Concerned groups wanted the State Department to study a possible re-routing of the pipeline away from environmentally sensitive areas of the Midwest US, and also make an assessment
on pipelines’ susceptibility to leaks.
The Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route through the US carries it over the Ogallala aquifer, one the world’s largest aquifers and a safe drinking water source for around 2 million Americans.
“This assessment is not going to amount to bad news for TransCanada in this particular area, but there are plenty of other hurdles ahead,” Droitsch added.
More than 300 people have been arrested in Washington, DC, since the two-week long civil disobedience campaign began last Saturday in front of the White House. Among those arrested are Canadian actress Margo Kidder and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben.
The Sierra Club, along with several leading environmental groups, sent a letter to Obama on Thursday, restating their opposition to the pipeline. “This is a terrible project,” the letter read, in part, according to the Canadian Press. “It risks many of our national treasures to leaks and spills. And it reduces incentives to make the transition to job-creating clean fuels. You have a clear shot to deny the permit, without any interference from Congress. It's perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election,” the letter continued.
After the State Department report is released, the president has 90 days to make a decision on whether the pipeline is in the nation’s interest. Droitsch predicted the pipeline debate will only intensify. “That gets very political - with the national interest determination, anything can happen, and the debate is going to get very heated.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times ran an editorial against the Keystone XL, noting the State Department has already “delivered two flawed reports” on the pipeline’s impact to the environment. It closed by noting State
should acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL.
After the demonstration campaign ends on September 3, environmentalists in Canada are scheduled to take part in a civil disobedience campaign on September 26. The effort will be led by Greenpeace Canada, the Council of Canadians and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
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