EAC plans trip to join Washington, D.C., protests against Keystone XL: Club members continue to voice their opinions despite previous arrests

Posted by Julia Leef

In step with the nationwide environmental movement, the Environmental Action Club is organizing a trip to join the thousands of protestors campaigning against the Keystone XL Pipeline on Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C.

This event is part of a series of protests that have been occurring in the last few months. People have been gathering in Washington, D.C. to speak out against the new Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that would bring oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas, passing through the Sand Hills of Nebraska, location of the Great Plains ecosystem.

"This is the next civil rights movement," said Eliza Sherpa '14, vice president of EAC. "This issue isn't going away."

On Sept. 3, Sherpa and Margot Reisner '14, president of EAC, who were on campus early for S-rep training, went down to D.C. with three other S-reps to join the last day of a two-week protest.

The police arrested 1,253 people during those two weeks, including Reisner and Sherpa, as well as Jane Li '14 and Joe Marto '14. Sherpa said the arrest really affected her.

"I felt more empowered than I've ever felt. I was giving everything that I physically possibly could to the issue," she said. "It was very inspiring to have so many people around you and just know that this is what our future is - we're making our future right now."

These protests are directed at President Barack Obama, who will make his decision about the fate of the pipeline project at the end of the year, Reisner said, adding that staging a protest on Nov. 6 places it exactly one year before the 2012 presidential elections. Obama's position regarding these environmental issues may have a great impact on his re-election chances, Reisner said.

"There's a problem in our society where we don't exercise our rights to democracy," Reisner said, adding that this is an opportunity for the people to make their voices heard, instead of relying on representatives to do so for them.

The potential pollution the pipeline could cause is not the only issue at hand, however. Sherpa said the original Keystone pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, has had 11 spills at pumping stations in the past year.

Reisner doesn't agree with the government's claim that extending the pipeline to Texas will create jobs and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. She said that not only is this latter statement untrue, as the oil will be imported from Canada, but the number of new jobs will reach a peak force of only 4,500 outsourced, not local, jobs during construction.

"It's really just the government leaning toward corporate profit over community health," Reisner said.

Reisner and Sherpa both hope that involving students will assist in spreading information around and bringing these controversies to light. The EAC has enough funding to bring 50 to 100 students to D.C., and it offers other ways to get involved locally.

Students may contact either Reisner or Sherpa to be placed on an interest list, which currently has 120 students, after which they will receive emails with information on the issues, petitions and other ways to get involved.

In addition, the EAC will be arranging carpools to attend a hearing on Nov. 21 in Trenton, New Jersey held by the Delaware River Basin Commission. This hearing will determine whether to allow hydrofracking in the Delaware River Basin, and there will be a large gathering of people to protest an affirmation of this decision.

The environmental issues behind hydrofracking, a drilling process that threatens to pollute public drinking water, are connected to the Keystone protests in that both are important events relating to public health and environmental progress, Sherpa said.

"This is one of the issues that will define our future entirely," Sherpa said.

Students who are interested in becoming involved should contact Reisner and Sherpa for more information, or speak to other members of the EAC, who will be in the atrium in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall during dinnertime in addition to their weekly meetings at 9 p.m. on Mondays in Ladd 207.

Those who wish to attend the protest in D.C. must come to an info session hosted by the EAC at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30 in Gannett Auditorium. At the meeting students will learn more information and must sign a liability form and an emergency contact list to attend the trip.

Students will leave from Case Center on Nov. 5 around 1 p.m. and will stay overnight at St. Stephen's Church in Washington, D.C. The following afternoon, students will join the protests in front of the White House for an hour or two before returning to the college on Sunday night. Although housing will be free, students should bring money for food and metro cards.

"This isn't something that's going to happen without the people going and taking action," Sherpa said. "It's a good way to bring together, not just the environmental community at Skidmore, but other members of society as well. This is a turning point in our history."

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