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Citizens Rally at Nebraska Capitol to Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline
On Nov. 12, the Keystone XL Tour of Resistance landed at Nebraska’s capital. A diverse coalition of farmers, ranchers, indigenous leaders, environmental leaders, Occupy Lincoln activists and others biked and marched to the Capitol dome to demand state and federal action to oppose TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. They formed a human wall on the Capitol steps as a symbolic “line in the sand” against Keystone XL.
The Lincoln march and rally come less than a week after 12,000 people surrounded the White House in opposition to Keystone XL, and just days after the Obama administration announced delaying a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election. The organizers are calling on the State Legislature to pass a bill regulating pipeline routes, and for President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL without delay.
Describing Keystone XL as a “dagger into the heartland,” Tom Weis, President of Climate Crisis Solutions, said, “We don’t need more studies to know Keystone XL threatens America. Obama’s announcement to put off a decision on the pipeline until after next November is a deeply cynical political ploy. The President needs to make a decision before the election and develop a green energy plan for our nation that puts unemployed Americans back to work.”
Cindy Myers, a lifetime resident of the Sand Hills, questioned the new environmental review being called for by Obama saying people living on the land understand their water resources better than anyone. “There’s been so much corruption at the local, state and federal level around Keystone XL, I don’t trust our government to do these studies right,” she said. “It’s like our government has been taken over by Big Oil.” Citing concern about the State Department’s delay announcement, Myers said, “It is of the utmost importance to Nebraska that we get this pipeline routing legislation in place now."
Robert Bernt, an organic dairy farmer from Wheeler County, criticized TransCanada for their lies and manipulation of the facts. “They’re ruthless, they’re careless, they have no concern for their fellow man or the land,” he said. “They buy their way, force their way, and threaten eminent domain.” Referencing threats to the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to nearly two million Americans and one-third of America’s farmland irrigation water, Bernt said, “The American people need to step up and protect one of our nation’s most precious natural resources, the Ogallala Aquifer.”
Lynda Buoy, farmer, rancher and president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, Sand Hills Region, called on Obama to intervene. “I think it’s a disgrace that this could happen in the U.S. [that] a foreign company coming into this country and badgering people to the point that they sign easements because they’re afraid not to do it.”
“If Keystone XL goes through, we’re going to erect a monument with a big brass plaque on top of it so people in the future will know who contaminated our water,” said Todd Cone, Nebraska rancher and licensed pump installation contractor. “It will have people in the Obama administration on it and all the Nebraska State Senators and how they voted.”
As reported by CNNMoney on Nov. 10, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, Russ Girling, said, “We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved.” According to CNNMoney, the company confirmed it has already bought $1.7 billion worth of steel pipe.
Weis is leading a “rocket trike” tour along the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline route to focus the nation on threats posed to America’s breadbasket by Keystone XL. He has pedaled more than 1,000 miles since leaving the U.S./Canada border a month ago. Weis was one of 1,253 people arrested in front of the White House earlier this summer protesting the tar sands pipeline, spending two nights in Washington, D.C.’s Central Cell Block.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.