WASHINGTON, DC — More than 700 people from across the country have people been at the White House for taking part in a sit-in to pressure President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline.
Those arrested included leading environmentalist Bill McKibben, former White House official and Yale dean Gus Speth, and gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi. More than 2,000 more people are expected to take part in sit-ins at the White House every day through September 2. The action began August 20.
In what has quickly emerged as President’s biggest environmental test before the 2012 election, the Obama Administration must decide if it will grant a permit to a Canadian company, TransCanada, to allow it to build the Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile long pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, down along the spine of the U.S. to the Gulf Coast.
“It’s not the easiest thing on earth for law-abiding folk to come risk arrest. But this pipeline has emerged as the single clear test of the president’s willingness to fight for the environment,” said environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading the protests and was arrested this morning. “So I wore my Obama ’08 button, and I carry a great deal of hope in my heart that we will see that old Obama emerge.”
If built, the pipeline could bring as much as 900,000 barrels per day through the U.S., and put fresh water, clean air and the climate at risk. The world’s most famous climatologist, NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, wrote that if the pipeline is built and the tar sands are fully developed, it is essentially “game over” for the climate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) and celebrities Mark Ruffalo, Thom Yorke, Danny Glover, and Josh Fox and have endorsed the protest. Twenty of the nation’s top scientists also wrote a letter urging President Obama to stop the pipeline.
Over the next two weeks the sit-ins will feature a diverse coalition of Americans, including a large contingent of landowners and ranchers along the pipeline route.
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