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For Immediate Release

Contact:  Rachele Huennekens, (703) 470-2454, Kristina Johnson (541) 914-9744

Hundreds of Concerned Citizens Protest Poison Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Sierra Club National Week of Action Reveals Public Outcry against Keystone XL Pipeline

On Thursday, November 18, the Sierra Club released a new report, "Toxic Tar Sands: Profiles from the Front Lines," exposing the risks Americans face from expanded imports of Canada’s dirty tar sands oil. The State Department is currently considering approval for the massive Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry toxic tar sands oil across the United States.

Coinciding with the report release, hundreds of concerned citizens attended town hall meetings and demonstrations calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stop the pipeline.

"As our nation’s worst-ever economic recession drags on, creating jobs in the clean energy sector should be priority number one," said Kate Collarulli, Director of the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels campaign.  "Building the poisonous Keystone XL pipeline would put the brakes on clean energy, and exacerbate the pollution and public health problems that come with America’s dependence on dirty, dangerous oil."

The Sierra Club report details how the Keystone XL pipeline project would damage America’s health and clean energy economy, from start to finish:

  • Extraction of tar sands oil the pipeline would carry requires clearcutting ancient forest and using huge amounts of water and energy, then leaving behind toxic lakes linked to cancer
  • An oil spill from the pipeline could devastate aquifers that supply water to 30 percent of America’s irrigated farmland.  More than 2,554 oil pipeline spills occurred in the U.S. between the years 2000-2009.
  • The pipeline would exacerbate air pollution and cancer, respiratory illness, and other health problems in communities surrounding oil refineries in Houston, Detroit, and Chicago. 

Sierra Club members and concerned citizens from Montana to Texas spoke out this week against the pipeline, calling and emailing the State Department to ask Secretary Clinton to fully examine the pipeline’s impacts on public health and the environment before issuing permits for the project to move forward. 

Tar Sands Frontlines Events:

  • On Thursday in Detroit, MI, dozens of residents of an African American community in southeast Detroit gathered next to the Marathon Oil refinery which is currently being expanded to accept tar sands oil from the Keystone XL pipeline.  Detroit demonstrators held signs saying: 'Secretary Clinton: our Bodies are not Toxic Waste Zones!' and 'Clean Energy Jobs, Not Poison Pipelines!'  Dr. Dolores Leonard, a retired professor who lives a few blocks from the Marathon refinery and was featured in the Sierra Club report, spoke at the event, saying, "there are so many health and quality-of-life problems resulting from all the heavy industry – and now tar sands – in the neighborhood, and we live with it every day.  This tar sands refinery brings illness for miles around, along with stress for residents who are watching it being built… [We feel] trapped and helpless."
  • On Thursday in Lincoln, NE, ranchers and farmers whose land would be traversed by the Keystone XL pipeline met for a Town Hall Meeting to educate themselves about risks of the pipeline and thank their U.S. Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns for expressing concerns about the pipeline to Secretary Clinton. 
  • On Friday in downtown Chicago, IL, protestors with Rainforest Action Network will demonstrate outside of a conference of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, of which TransCanada – owner of the Keystone XL pipeline – is a member.
  • On Friday in Houston, TX, the Sierra Club will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall, calling on Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Secretary Clinton to protect them from the polluting pipeline.  Juan Parras, a resident of the Ship Channel neighborhood, will be joined by public health experts in speaking about Houston air pollution and increased likelihood of childhood leukemia, asthma, lung disease, cancer, and other diseases that would come from refining toxic tar sands oil.  "Houstonians need more time to weigh in on the harmful effects of the Keystone XL pipeline," said Parras.  "We are asking Secretary Clinton and Mayor Parker to fully evaluate the impacts of toxic tar sands oil before they bring it into our backyard."
  • On Friday in Missoula, MT, activists with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Rockies Rising Tide will convene for an 'International Tar Sands Resistance Summit' to strategize about aiding communities negatively impacted by the Alberta tar sands excavation, the Keystone XL pipeline, and massive equipment shipments connected to pipeline construction.
  • Anti-pipeline activities also stretch into next week.  Concerned citizens in Sioux Falls, SD, plan to hold a press conference featuring Carolyn Harkness and Ed Cable, whose rural community would be destroyed by a proposed new tar sands oil refinery, Hyperion. 
  • In Topeka, KS, public officials and Sierra Club members will meet to express concerns about economically-strained municipalities granting massive tax breaks for TransCanada’s 'Keystone Cushing extension' pipeline, which has already been completed through a wide swath of Kansas farmland.  Kansans will hear from Harry Bennett, a grain marketer and family farmer whose well-water supply is threatened by the pipeline. "This [tar sands oil] pipeline is a ticking time bomb," Bennett says. "A leak would take seconds to poison the land I’ve lived off for thirty-two years."

In the coming weeks, citizens will continue to organize and speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline and urge Secretary Clinton to support moving America beyond oil, towards a clean energy economy that creates new jobs, increases efficiency and grows domestic clean energy sources like wind and solar. 

"This pipeline is not in our national interest. Fortunately, Secretary Clinton can still stop this dangerous project from moving forward," said Collarulli. "The last thing we need is more contamination of American air, water, and land from toxic Canadian tar sands oil."

New Sierra Club “Toxic Tar Sands: Profiles from the Frontlines” report: http://www.sierraclub.org/dirtyfuels/tar-sands/faces/  

Sierra Club email campaign to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: https://secure2.convio.net/sierra/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=5063&autologin=true&s_src=110KZZNC04&JServSessionIdr004=6pth90g4r2.app217a  

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