Among the throngs of people lined up outside the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury last Wednesday when President Obama came to support Democratic candidate for Senate Ed Markey was a crowd of protesters holding up signs in support of scrapping the planned Keystone XL pipeline.
Boston-based Climate Justice Hub, a newly established grassroots organization focused on intensifying the climate movement in Massachusetts, organized the protest, collaborating with other environmental groups such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org.
Protesters sought to apply pressure on Obama to firmly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The president is waffling on the issue,”
said Will Pearl, an organizer for the Climate Justice Hub. “If he followed his instincts he would know that the people don’t want this.”
This week the president announced a series of actions to curb greenhouse emissions, which will be revealed in July. And yet, so far,
Obama has not given a definitive answer on whether he will completely oppose the pipeline.
The Keystone XL will deliver tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the Midwest and down to the Gulf Coast. Compared to conventional oil, tar sand (also known as bitumen) produces 12 percent more carbon emissions per barrel, according to a study by the Jacobs Consultancy.
Environmentalists fear that an approval of the Keystone XL will result in an irreversible climate catastrophic due to the increasing emissions.
They also have raised concerns about the impact it would have on communities along the pipeline’s route.
“This pipeline will run through communities that don’t deserve the devastation that could potentially happen,” said Alison, a Newton resident who came to support the protest. “The natives in Canada don’t want it going through their land, why should we?”
Many in the crowd supported Markey, who has been reliable to the environmental movement, earning a perfect rating by the League of Conservation Voters. In 2010 Markey posted a live-stream on his website showing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and he has been one of the strongest opponents of the Keystone XL in the House.
Climate activists hope that having Markey provide a strong vocal opposition to the pipeline will encourage the president and Congress to see the potential damage that the Keystone XL could bring.
“This pipeline is a carbon bomb, the tipping point for this country,” Pearl said.
“With a stroke of a pen the president can end this injustice.”
However, when asked whether he thinks Obama will eventually oppose the pipeline, Pearl shook his head. “I’m afraid that he has too many special interests to answer to.”