Keystone XL Tar Sands Protests: A Moment in Our History

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. at the Keystone XL vigil (Photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC)

Several hundred Keystone XL tar sands pipeline protesters gathered in Washington DC’s Lafayette Park Monday night, familiar territory for one of the biggest environmental fights in history. It was one of nearly 300 protests and vigils that took place across the country, just days after the release of the U.S. State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that reported the pipeline could add as much carbon pollution as 5.7 million cars a year.

An enthusiastic crowd of people young and old braved cold temperatures to send a message loud and clear to the White House: no to 830,000 barrels a day of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, a toxic river of crude that would pour across the Canadian border through America’s agricultural heartland to refineries in the Gulf, much of it for export; no to the ravages of global climate change that would be exacerbated by the expansion of carbon-heavy, boreal forest-killing tar sands mining operations in Alberta that are the largest in the world; and yes to a clean energy future.

Here’s how the Hip Hop Caucus’ Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. put it to a raucous crowd chanting and clapping in the chilly night air:

This day now becomes a day of history … and the next generation will look upon this day with all of us gathered around this wonderful country of ours to say that we must transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and we must do it right now!

It was an emotional speech, a reminder that people still have the power to stop even the most politically influential special interests from getting their way in Washington. My colleague Elizabeth Shope described it this way in her blog yesterday:

The outpouring of energy in opposing Keystone XL was inspirational, though not surprising – as the climate-wrecking pipeline has garnered tremendous opposition for years, with over 1,200 people getting arrested in front of the White House in sit-ins in August 2011 protesting the pipeline; over 10,000 people rallying and encircling the White House in November 2011; thousands coming back to Washington, DC to rally in November 2012; over 40,000 people braving sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, DC in February 2013 to call on President Obama to move Forward on Climate, and events in all 50 states this past September 2013 calling on President Obama to Draw the Line and say no to Keystone XL.

Protesters at the Keystone XL vigil in DC (Photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC)

The battle over Keystone will continue, as the State Department enters its next phase of pipeline review of National Interest Determination, and other federal agencies have time to weigh in. This fight is still a long way from the finish line.  Keystone XL has become a rallying cry to protect the climate and our health, a moment in our history that can send a critical message to the world: it's time to cut carbon emissions and stop feeding the most environmentally destructive project on the planet. Join us to say no to Keystone XL, and fight for a cleaner, healthier future. We have the power to make a better way.