Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Friday June 21st, 2013, 4:21pm

Keystone XL Pipeline Battle Between TransCanada, Activists Heats Up

The beginning of this week marked the start of a renewed effort by activists to speak out against the Keystone XL Pipeline. On Monday, 22 people, including a former Obama campaign stafferwere arrested at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago during a protest that kicked off the KXL Pledge of Resistance Campaign

The new campaign is laser-focused on encouraging President Barack Obama to decide against the Keystone Pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada through the United States to the Gulf Coast of Texas. (See our report on a recent protest against the pipeline outside of a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago attended by the president.) In the next several months, a final decision will be made on the pipeline, according to its opponents, and the new campaign's "pledge of resistance is a commitment to massive and historic nationwide acts of peaceful, dignified civil disobedience if President Obama takes the first step to approve Keystone XL."

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With the first action taking place in the President's hometown of Chicago, the new campaign, started by CREDO, The Rainforest Action Network, and The Other 98%, plan on conducting protests against the pipeline throughout the summer. According the campaign's website, the planned summer protests are simply a preview of what could come down the line: "To demonstrate our commitment and seriousness, over the summer we will have small-scale preview actions, and we will train 1,000 activists to lead civil disobedience actions in their own community, at State Department Offices, federal buildings and other strategic targets." 

And by summer's end, the battle against the Keystone Pipeline could get even more intense. The Department of State is set to release an analysis that will indicate whether or not the pipeline would be advantageous for the nation. The analysis, which will reportedly have some weight in the Obama administration's final decision regarding the pipeline, could lead to “the biggest burst of civil disobedience in modern American history,” according to the campaign's leaders. More than 62,000 Americans have pledged to take part in civil disobedience actions across the country if the State Department's report recommends construction of the pipeline, according to a campaign leader in an interview with In These Times. The State Department report could be released some time in the fall.  

Meanwhile, the corporation that owns the Keystone Pipeline is pushing back against protesters, hoping to encourage law enforcement to see them as "terrorists" that need to be prosecuted. 

TransCanada has reportedly worked with an FBI/Department of Human Services office in Nebraska to consider possible "terrorism" and other serious charges for non-violent protesters speaking out against the controversial pipeline. In April, a crime analyst with the Nebraska Information Analysis Center, the FBI/DHS fusion center, gave a presentation, that included a slide called "The Eight Signs Of Terrorism", highlighting possible tactics Keystone Pipeline opponents could employ in their protests. Journalists could fall under the umbrella of those who could be considered terrorists or "environmental extremists" based on the presentation, as noted by DeSmogBlog, because the taking of photos falls under the "observed behaviors and incidents reasonably indicative of preoperations planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity." The presentation also lists the creation of the KXL Pledge of Resistance campaign in a section that details examples of recent protests against the pipleline. 

TransCanada put together a presentation of its own featuring the names and photos of protesters who have been active in the movement against the $5.6 billion pipeline. The presentation, which was acquired by Bold Nebraska via a Freedom of Information Act request, was given to local law enforcement as a means to help them identify protesters and provide information on what tactics they may use in their rallies, which included a warning that “they may climb and occupy trees.”

Bold Nebraska believes the presentation serves as evidence that TransCanada is attempting to create discord between opponents of the pipeline and law enforcement. 

"It's outrageous that a foreign corporation would come into our state to sow fear of landowners and citizens," said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska. "Every meeting, rally, and action that we have done in Nebraska has been peaceful, non-violent and lawful."

Environmental activists are concerned about the long-term impact the pipeline will have on the planet. The pipeline is expected to emit the equivalent of 51 coal plants, annually. Additionally, the pipeline's pump stations are set to emit 4.4 million metric tons of carbon each year, amounting to the pollution of one U.S. coal plant. ThinkProgress does a good job of breaking down the potential environmental impact of the pipeline here.

Earlier this month, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the State Department for its March 1 draft environmental impact statement that found the project to be "environmentally sound." The environmental advocacy group says the State Department's report is "plagued with conflicts of interest."

"Imagine if the surgeon general was replaced with a tobacco executive," Robin Mann, past president and board member of the Sierra Club, told reporters in a call announcing the lawsuit. "At the State Department, we're seeing something just as outrageous."

The suit alleges the State Department is withholding evidence in regards to the third-party contractor, Environmental Resources Management, that was tapped to do the analysis as well as possible documentation surrounding the environmental review of the pipeline.

There are also discrepancies about how the pipeline will impact the economy. While, supporters of the pipeline say it will be a job boon for the nation, the State Department report says otherwise. The report notes that the pipeline will lead to the creation of more than 42,000 indirect jobs and 3,900 direct jobs. But just 35 of those jobs will be permanent, full-time positions once construction of the pipeline is over; another 15 will be permanent, part-time assignments.

“Based on this estimate, routine operation of the proposed pipeline would have negligible socioeconomic impacts,” the report reads.

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