oil pipeline

Major Oil Spill in Suburbia Shows Risk of Pipelines

Photo by Minale Tattersfield Roadside Retail / Flickr.com
Photo by Minale Tattersfield Roadside Retail / Flickr.com

Residents of Mayflower, Ark., spent Easter weekend evacuated from their homes as Exxon Mobil attended to a major oil spill from a crude oil pipeline. Residents described scenes of oil running down the streets like a river, as 22 families were forced to leave their homes.

Since the pipe burst on Friday afternoon, cleanup crews have collected around 12,000 barrels of oil and water. Images from the weekend show quiet cul-de-sacs inundated with thick, black sludge, and parents reported concern for their children and whether they would be able to play outside.

When the White House Calls to Say, "OK, You Win."

Rose Marie Berger (left with blue stole) shortly before her arrest during an ant
Rose Marie Berger (left with blue stole) shortly before her arrest during an anti-Keystone protest at the White House in August.

It didn’t take long — after news broke this afternoon that President Obama had indefinitely kyboshed the climate-killer Keystone XL pipeline — for my phone to ring.

“Hi Rose, I’m calling from White House on behalf of President Obama," the voice on the other end of the line said. "We wanted to makes sure you’d seen the president’s executive order postponing the permitting of the pipeline until another environmental impact report can be done, especially focusing on sensitive environmental issues in Nebraska.

"And we want to thank you for your good work on this issue. We’re just reaching out to let you know that the President hears you and we hope you’ll continue to help us focus on the really critical issues that are facing us right now.”

This afternoon President Obama made an official announcement on the Keystone XL Pipeline that so many of you have been working on these last several months.

Obama's Delay in Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is a Victory for God's Earth

President’s Obama’s delay in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is a victory for the movement to stop it, for God’s earth, for the possibility of reversing climate change, and for saving the integrity of this administration. 

A “No” to pipeline approval wasn’t really politically likely, with the likelihood of attacks on Obama by the Republicans and the labor movement of sacrificing jobs during an election year — even though the pipeline offers temporary and bad jobs.

The environmental movement is part of the Democratic President’s base, but so is labor and they are both more numerous and more effectively organized to help in presidential races.

So this delay is a victory for the possible future of a clean energy economy, which would produce many more and better jobs, while making a cleaner and more sustainable economy possible. 

Obama Announces Support for Delay of Keystone XL Permit Decision

In a statement released by the White House this afternoon, President Obama said in part:

Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.

Standing Up for the Earth

Police in Washington, D.C., arrested 1,252 Americans as part of a 15-day event at the White House protesting the controversial 1,700-mile Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. The two-week demonstration, initiated by environmentalist Bill McKibben, was the largest on global warming in U.S. history.

There are numerous reasons to object to this pipeline: Privately held TransCanada, the pipeline owner, is responsible for 12 oil spills in the U.S. in 2011; tar sands strip mining in Alberta, Canada, already involves clear-cutting boreal forests, breaking indigenous treaties, irreversibly damaging water quality, and introducing toxic waste into the food chain affecting human health. Pipeline jobs are few, temporary, poorly paid, and often given to migrant workers; the pipeline extension threatens the Ogallala Aquifer, America’s largest freshwater reserve; and it takes 8,800 pounds of earth and tar sands, plus an average of 155 gallons of fresh water, to produce one barrel of tar sands oil, which will fill half a tank of a Chevy Suburban.

But there is one reason that makes this pipeline different. “Exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize the climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts,” says NASA’s leading climate scientist James Hansen, who was arrested with religious leaders as part of the protest. “If the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that Canadian tar sands carbon emissions are “82 percent greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.” This pipeline is a climate killer.

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Drawing a Line in the (Tar) Sand

The usual standard for writing magazine articles is to aim for the (relatively) timeless. In this case, you won't get another copy of Sojourners for two months, and, really, an article should stay fresh that whole time. Think plastic flowers, not fresh-picked daisies.

I'm violating that rule in spades with this column -- if you didn't read it when the magazine arrived, then skip on to something else, because it will be wilted. But if you're a timely reader: We need you.

From August 20 to Labor Day weekend, some of us are mounting what may turn into the largest-scale use of civil disobedience yet around global warming. We’ll be doing daily demonstrations that risk arrest at the White House in an effort to block the ugliest project you’ve probably never heard of, the so-called Keystone XL pipeline, which will run -- if President Obama grants the necessary permits -- from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Texas coast.

The original call for the action went out in late June, from a group of individuals that included Wendell Berry, Naomi Klein, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, scientist Jim Hansen, and others. They stressed that the action will be entirely peaceful; in fact, if you want to come you’ve got to be "dignified in dress and demeanor." That's because we want very much to show who the radicals are in this story.

And make no mistake -- that pipeline is a radical act. It helps unlock the planet's second-largest pool of carbon, outmatched only by the oil wells of Saudi Arabia. There’s enough carbon up there that if you could burn it all off you’d raise the atmosphere’s carbon concentration from its current 390 parts per million to nearly 600. Even burning a much smaller amount of these tar sands would mean that it’s "essentially game over" for the climate, according to Hansen.

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God's Wrath Caused East Coast Earthquake

I want to beat televangelist Pat Robertson to the jump on yesterday's East Coast earthquake.

Robertson is genius at knowing the mind of God when it comes to natural disasters. He blamed the Haiti earthquake on a God-offending "pact with the devil." Hurricane Katrina was God's pay-back for abortion in America.

Having spent some time with the Lord recently, I feel there is a message for President Obama: It is God's wrath that shook the White House yesterday. This was a 5.8 wake-up call.

Why is God all wrought up this time? What is it that God wants President Obama to do? Well, my friends, the issue is climate change. Global warming. Specifically, the Keystone XL "Dirty Oil" pipeline.

Climate Witness as Act of Faithfulness

The earth dries up and withers ... The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. - Isaiah 24:4-6

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! - Deuteronomy 30:19

During the 1980s, many Christians were at the forefront of a movement to avert nuclear annihilation. They saw this transcendent threat as a moral crisis and felt a responsibility to nonviolently resist, including acts of civil disobedience and divine obedience. Today, we face a comparable danger -- a climate catastrophe which could decimate life on earth. Yet it seems not to have been picked up on the Christian "radar screen" in the same way. For this reason, it is actually more insidious.

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