Local residents join nationwide Keystone XL protest

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Mon., Oct. 7, 2013
Ben Martin participates in a Sept. 21 rally in Willimantic protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Ben Martin participates in a Sept. 21 rally in Willimantic protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Activists all over the country gathered the afternoon of Sept. 21 for a vigil held in protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Dubbed Draw the Line, the protest was supported by 350.org and various other environmental groups. Locally, a group gathered on the corner of Main and Jackson streets in Willimantic, near the foot of the Frog Bridge. Bearing signs, ribbons and a large marionette representing Mother Earth, the protestors spent more than an hour waving at cars, chatting with passersby, and providing information.

Dr. Robert Maine, who said he’d taught at Rutgers, UConn and the University of Brideport, said that he was concerned about the XL Pipeline. “But I’m also concerned about the reckless use of nuclear energy,” he said. “Fukushima is a disaster that literally will kill the Pacific Ocean,” continued Maine, adding that marine mammals such as whales and seals were already being bombarded with radioactivity as a result of the Japanese nuclear disaster.

“To strip mine the arboreal forest in Canada, to harvest tar sands oil and pipe it to specialized refineries in the Gulf and ship it to the world market, is absolutely the wrong investment,” said Cindy Moeckel. “We need to invest in sustainable energy.”

“It’s absolutely the wrong idea to bring oil through the country to ship to the rest of the world when we have the ability to meet all of our energy needs with renewable energy, if only we start investing in it now,” said Ben Martin.

“Proven reserves of fossil fuels are five times as great as what is required to exceed the 2-degree temperature rise target that our world leaders agree would be the prudent point at which to stop global warming,” said Philip Dooley. Dooley provided a handout listing source after source outlining the dangers of man-made global warming.

The Canadian company TransCanada hopes to begin building the northern section of an oil pipeline that would trek close to 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. If constructed, the pipeline, known as Keystone XL, would carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil. An area the size of Florida is already set for extraction, but before TransCanada can begin construction, the company needs a presidential permit from the Obama administration. After numerous delays, the president is now expected to render a decision regarding the project by early 2014.

Two recent developments, however, have added fuel to the anti-pipeline fire. The Center for Biological Diversity published a study at the end of September about the damage that the pipeline would cause to wildlife habitats it crosses. And a few days later, the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on the potentially devastating impact of climate change, noting that it is "extremely likely" the cause of global warming is human carbon dioxide output from fossil fuels, including carbon-rich tar sands oil like that which the Keystone pipeline is designed to transport.

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