Why Stop Keystone XL?

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Why Rally on Climate Now?

We are demanding that President Obama take immediate action on the climate crisis. One of the most important decisions he can make is to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Another is to tell the EPA to set carbon standards for power plants. This rally will show the president and the U.S. State Department (charged with the Keystone XL environmental review) how large the climate movement has grown, and how urgent this issue truly is.

Rejecting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline: Good for the Planet and California

The U.S. State Department must reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  The Alberta tar sands operation is one of the biggest, dirtiest carbon bombs on the planet, and burning it would bring devastating effects to our climate and environment.  With this 1700 mile pipeline between Canada and Gulf Coast refineries, oil companies would ship the dirty tar sands fuel all over the world.  This would substantially increase CO2 emissions, and escalate global warming and the risks of runaway climate disruption.  A June 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service said that building the pipeline would be the equivalent of adding at least 4 million new cars to the road. Top climate scientist James Hansen said  "If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."

What Keystone XL means for California.  Most of the debate over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has focused on its water quality impacts in the Midwest, and to a lesser extent on its carbon pollution impacts. But its approval holds wider implications for the future of North American energy infrastructure—and for California in particular.

Keystone XL is just one of several multi-billion dollar pipeline projects designed to move oil from the land-locked tar sands of Alberta to sea ports that are the key to unlocking global markets. The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would send up to five hundred thousand barrels per day to Kitimat, British Columbia, for export to Asian markets and California. As one of the largest crude oil markets in the U.S., California is expected to get half the oil supplied by Enbridge Gateway Pipeline. Refineries in California are already beginning to process tar sands.

The good news is that California’s clean energy law (AB 32), and policies like the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, discourage expansion of dirty fuels (including tar sands) from being refined in California. The bad news is that the oil industry is mounting an aggressive campaign to derail implementation of clean fuel policies in the state. Their objective is clear: import more tar sands and other dirty crude oil into California, no matter the cost to the climate.

Discouraging dirty fuel expansion in our state will spur availability of cleaner alternatives such as second generation biofuels, help curb climate pollution and improve the health of California’s most vulnerable communities. And by reducing demand for tar sands crude, we’ll also help Canadians who are fighting their own battles against dirty oil pipelines.

The Global Climate Crisis and California

The climate crisis:  Rising CO2 emissions are dangerously warming the planet, with accelerating negative impacts.  Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, scale, and intensity—worldwide.  The climate crisis has come home to the US—epic drought, devastating wildfires, and superstorm Sandy—and the American people get it.  We need rapid emission reductions to preserve a healthy future for our children and grandchildren.  By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, we uphold our moral responsibility to the future.  

Bay Area shorelines will suffer devastating floods: Climate change has the potential to raise the level of the world’s seas by 3-5 feet (or more) over the next century, with drastic local consequences. 333 square miles of Bay shoreline are threatened with flooding, putting 270,000 people at risk and representing an estimated $62 billion in damages and mitigation costs. Keystone XL will drive sea level rise, with devastating impacts to all the Bay's shores and ecosystems, wetlands and estuaries, airports and infrastructure, and residential and commercial developments.

Our state will suffer severe water shortages: Emissions from extracting, refining and burning tar sands oil will raise temperatures and keep our snowpack melting, resulting in drier summers and more flooding in winter. Sierra Nevada snowpacks hold one third of California's surface water throughout winter, releasing it in spring and summer. If our current emissions of greenhouse gases continue, snow levels will decline by up to 90 percent. This would result in severe water shortages, harming the Bay's residents, businesses, and endangered species.  Rejecting the pipeline will help mitigate all this—it’s critical for the Bay area and California. 

Bay Area species will be driven to extinction: Many species (such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and the California clapper rail), cling to a precarious existence in the Bay's already-shrunken wetlands. Rising seas will move the shore directly into current zones of urban development, leaving no space for critical marsh habitat and dooming wetland species to extinction. Reduced flows of streams and rivers entering the Bay will prove fatal for migratory fish such as Chinook salmon and cutthroat trout. The survival of many other species will become more and more precarious as they endure increasingly severe storms, floods, fires, and droughts.

Climate Change as a Moral Issue

"The climate crisis is the most urgent moral issue of this century. Fifteen thousand faith organizations in California and across America have acknowledged the moral imperative to leave future generations an Earth capable of providing the resources they need to survive and thrive, and a global economy that is based on clean, safe, renewable energy. We must engage wholeheartedly in this effort, or condemn future generations to a perilous future in which sources of clean water, adequate food, and economic prosperity are all at serious risk. Rev. Kurt A. Kuhwald, Unitarian Universalist minister and professor at Starr King Seminary in Berkeley, writes, ‘The time of denial and retreat is at an end. The time for a radical commitment to life and this planet is at hand. Every one of us is needed.’  Those of us who hold the Earth dear as the source of all life, those of us who cherish children—all of us, working together—have a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet and future for all generations."  —Frances Aubrey, 350 Bay Area

Climate Change as a Health Issue

"Citing serious adverse health concerns, National Nurses United announced (1-5-13) that it is joining with environmentalists, unions and other organizations from across the country to oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline—the 1,700 mile tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to refineries in Texas.  With 185,000 members, NNU is the largest organization and union of registered nurses.  The Keystone XL could have a significant impact on the health of communities in the tar sands production areas along its route and refinery fence line communities where the heavy sour crude will be processed.  In addition, the emissions from tar sands will exacerbate climate change which affects public health much more broadly even than the widespread direct impacts of the tar sands industry.  Nurses care for patients every day who struggle with health crises aggravated by environmental pollution in its many forms," said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.  "As a society we need to reduce the effects of environmental factors, including climate change, that are making people sick, and endangering the future for our children.  That’s why we oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."

"A current focus of the American Lung Association in California's fight against climate change is in protecting California's clean air leadership that has resulted in key life-saving pollution reduction programsÉ California is experiencing an air pollution crisis that places a severe burden on the health of its residents. Each year, public exposure to unhealthy air contributes to thousands of asthma attacks, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths in California. Unfortunately, global warming will make it much harder for California to protect its citizens from unhealthy air."

"California is home to some of the nation’s worst air pollution, with more than 90% of the population breathing unhealthy air. Public health in California, particularly among vulnerable populations already most impacted by air pollution - children, the elderly, low income communities, communities of color, and those with heart and lung disease - will bear greater impacts as global warming raises temperatures and further threatens our air quality. According to the California Air Resources Board, current unhealthy levels of ozone (smog) and particulate matter annually contribute to:

  • 9,200 premature deaths
  • 9,400 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease
  • 280,000 asthma and other lower respiratory symptoms
  • 22,000 cases of acute bronchitis
  • Millions of school and work days lost due to respiratory conditions"

~ American Lung Association, "Global Warming Threatens California Air Quality & Public Health"

Climate Change as an Issue for First Nations People

The mining of the Alberta tar sands has had disastrous results for First Nations people. This mining has caused high rates of cancers in the people and the animals that they subsist on, and which are an important part of their culture.

Many of the mining of "resources" such as the tar sands, uranium, gold, etc., takes place on treaty lands and unceded First Nations territories. The mining of these resources have caused profound damages, not only for Indigenous people, but for all of humanity.

The Idle No More movement, started by four women, both First Nations and European ancestry, has spread around the world. People are resonating to the concept that we must put an end to governmental approval of corporate destruction of our water, air and Mother Earth.  We must all rise up together to ensure an environment that can sustain humanity.

Native Americans have traditionally made important decisions with consideration for the next seven generations to come. This type of consideration ensures a sustainable future for descendants. If this type of thinking had been part of institutions of the United States, both private and governmental, there would be no climate change issue.

—Pennie Opal Plant, Yaqui, Choctaw, Cherokee

For more information

Contacts:

Michelle Myers, 415-646-6930, michelle.myers@sierraclub.org , www.sfbay.sierraclub.org

Jessica Dervin-Ackerman, 510-848-0800 x304, jess@sfbaysc.org

Taylor Hawke, 415-786-6317, taylorhawke@earthlink.net

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