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Thousands March at 'Reject and Protect' Protesting Keystone XL Pipeline

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Thousands March at 'Reject and Protect' Protesting Keystone XL Pipeline

Thousands of people joined the farmers, ranchers and tribal leaders of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance for a ceremonial procession along the National Mall to protest the Keystone XL pipeline yesterday. The procession was the largest event yet of the five-day “Reject and Protect” encampment.

“Today, boots and moccasins showed President Obama an unlikely alliance has his back to reject Keystone XL to protect our land and water,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, one of the key organizers of Reject and Protect.

Legendary musician Neil Young and actress Daryl Hannah were amongst the crowd of thousands who rallied on the National Mall and then marched past the Capitol building. “We need to end the age of fossil fuels and move on to something better,” Young told the crowd.

The day’s procession included the presentation of a hand-painted tipi to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as a gift to President Obama. The tipi represented the Cowboy and Indian Alliance’s hopes for protected land and clean water. The formal name of the tipi is “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish” and “Oyate Wookiye,” two names given to President Obama by the Lakota and the Crow Nations upon his visit to those Nations in 2008. The title translates from the Lakota and Crow languages, respectively, as “Man Who Helps the People” and “One Who Helps People throughout the Land.”

“Keystone XL is a death warrant for our people,” said Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer, who helped lead the presentation of the tipi to the Smithsonian. “President Obama must reject this pipeline and protect our sacred land and water. The United States needs to respect our treaty rights and say no to Keystone XL.”

Reject and Protect has helped shine a spotlight on the strengthening opposition to Keystone XL amongst ranchers, farmers and Native American tribes along the pipeline route. Buoyed by the State Department’s recent delay of the project, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance has pledged to intensify their efforts to convince President Obama to “reject” the pipeline and “protect” their families, land, water, treaty rights and climate.

“Every time Keystone XL gets delayed it just gives us more time to speak up and tell the truth about this dangerous pipeline,” Meghan Hammond, a sixth-generation Nebraska rancher told the crowd of thousands. Hammond worked with her family to build a crowd-funded, clean-energy powered barn on her property, directly on the proposed route of Keystone XL.

The five-day Reject and Protect encampment began with a march and opening ceremony on Earth Day, April 22. On Wednesday, members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance met with the White House to voice their concerns about Keystone XL and tar sands expansion. On Thursday, the Alliance hosted a protest at the Lincoln Memorial where Rosebud Sioux member Wizipan Little Elk and Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup risked arrest by walking into the reflecting pool with a sign that read, “Standing in the water could get me arrested, TransCanada pollutes drinking water and nothing happens.” On Friday, the Alliance hosted an interfaith prayer ceremony outside Secretary of State John Kerry’s house, before marching through Georgetown and holding a round dance in the middle of the M St. and Wisconsin Ave. intersection.

“The proposed pipeline is going to be coming through our backyard,” said Robert Allpress, a rancher from North-Central Nebraska. “We live in an area that is very slide-prone and TransCanada has never checked that out. They’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and we don’t need them because they’re not beneficial for the United States.”

Reject and Protect also included representatives from First Nations communities living in Alberta, Canada, where tar sands production is devastating tribal land, water and health. First Nations are increasingly fighting back by demanding the Canadian government honor their treaty rights.

“We have come to a point where we have no choice left but to lift up our inherent treaty rights—our birthrights,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6. “The Crown and this Government do not get to pick the pieces of their law it likes and which ones it does not. They made their laws thus they have to abide by them. As First Nations people, we abide by natural law, and there is nothing natural about a people dying from cancer and suffering from respiratory illnesses caused by tar sands production.”

On Friday, Senator Barbara Boxer offered her support for the encampment, “I commend all of the ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders from throughout our nation's heartland who have come to Washington, D.C. this week. Although I cannot be with you in person, I want you to know that your presence sends a strong signal to Congress and the administration about the need to protect our communities and families from the impacts of dirty tar sands oil.”

Reject and Protect will end with an interfaith ceremony at the encampment on Sunday morning, but according to lead organizers, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance will continue to build its ground campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline until President Obama rejects it once and for all.

“This is just the beginning. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance will ride again,” said Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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