Students travel to D.C. to protest pipeline
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 02:02
On Sunday, Feb. 17, 38 UNH students marched with the Student Environmental Action Coalition through Washington, D.C. alongside an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people from around the world in a rally to protest the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.
Participants convened mid- to late-morning at the Washington Monument, where several keynote speakers kicked off the event. Members of 350.org and the Sierra Club—two of the organizations that coordinated the rally—gave speeches, as well as Bill McKibben, environmentalist author of “Eaarth,” former White House Green Jobs Specialist Van Jones and many others.
Robert F. Kennedy was also in attendance and was arrested, along with McKibben, Jones, and roughly four-dozen other prominent attendees, for engaging in civil disobedience in close proximity to the White House.
UNH SEAC President Fiona Gettinger said that Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, was among the first to be arrested last week.
“In the past, The Sierra Club has never carried out any actions that have resulted in arrests,” Gettinger said. “In the last week and a half, they made the decision to change that, so Michael was the first person to be arrested from the organization.”
Organizers of the event originally anticipated roughly 35,000 people in attendance, but that number was updated to 50,000 only a couple of hours into the rally.
“It was great being there to represent the UNH community,” UNH sophomore and SEAC member Kyle Farr said. “But to be a part of the bigger community was awesome. There were so many different people, yellow, brown, blue, pink, all from different walks of life.”
At approximately 4 p.m., the march ended at the White House, where more speeches were given and singer/songwriter Eve gave an on-stage performance.
Gettinger said that the temperatures were cold and it even began snowing at one point, but despite the less-than-ideal weather, the atmosphere couldn’t have been more exciting.
“There were so many people coming together for one issue,” she said.
As of 2010, The TransCanada Keystone Pipeline currently extends from Alberta, Canada to various destinations in Oklahoma, Illinois and Nebraska, transporting crude oil into the United States.
An extension of the pipeline, a $7 billion project called the Keystone XL Pipeline, is a proposed 1,700-mile expansion of the pipeline that would construct a new portion networking Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The new segments would create an additional route from Alberta to Nebraska, as well.
TransCanada claims that the expansion of the pipeline will “have the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries, reducing American dependence on oil from Venezuela and the Middle East by up to 40 percent,” according to its website, keystone-xl.com.
TransCanada is promoting the Keystone XL with talks of job creation, estimating 13,000 in construction and 7,000 in manufacturing. In August of 2012, the U.S. State Department projected that the expansion would only create 5,000 to 6,000 new construction jobs, and opponents of the project argue that many of the manufacturing jobs would be outside the United States because a large amount of steel for the project would be purchased from other countries.
“The new jobs would be extremely temporary and not worth the environmental and human impact,” Gettinger said. “There is so much evidence that shows the number of jobs created is nothing in comparison to what it could be if we simply changed our view and started looking at a better infrastructure.”
TransCanada stated in a 2011 news release that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create upwards of 250,000 new permanent jobs — a figure taken from a study published by the Perryman Group — a financial analysis firm in Waco, Texas that TransCanada commissioned.
That figure, which has since been widely touted by proponents of the expansion, accounts for 118,000 “spin-off jobs,” which, according to an analysis in the Washington Post, would be “far removed from the industry.” The article cites a previous study conducted by the Perryman Group on wind farms, which accounted for jobs such as dancers, choreographers and bartenders.
“According to our analysis back in 2010, there were a total of about 118,000 person-years of employment created in the U.S. as a result of the building of the entire KXL project,” Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman group and a pipeline consultant hired by TransCanada, said in an email. “Approximately 28,000 [jobs] were direct construction, and an additional 6,000 or so were for the portion of the pipe manufactured in the U.S. The remainder were indirect and induced jobs.”
Perryman was hired specifically to assess the economic impact of the project.
“Any multi-billion dollar construction project will have a short-term stimulus on the economy,” he said. “The far larger effects in this case, however, are the long-range effects on a stable and secure supply of energy for the U.S.”
Despite the arguments over the project’s job creation, opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline postulate that its harmful environment impacts aren’t worth the pros, in any case.