Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Don Lieber

Opposition To Keystone Pipeline, Stigmatization Of Tar Sands Increasing (Pictures)

Public opposition to the Keystone “Tar Sands” Pipeline continues to increase, with protests against ‘the dirtiest fuel on the planet‘ taking new and increasingly organized public forms of civil disobedience in the United States and around the world.

Last week, the “National Week of Action Against Tar Sands Profiteers” resulted in over 50 protest actions against the pipeline and its top investors in dozens of US cities. A sample of the protests and acts of civil disobedience which occurred last week:

New Orleans, Louisiana: Protesters blockaded two bus-loads of oil executives — including BP, Shell, Valero, and other investors in tar sands and extraction industries (March 16-17).

Omaha, Nebraska: Activists shut down work at the TransCanada office (March 20).

Washington, DC: Protesters locked themselves inside a local TD Bank Branch.  (TD Bank is one of the largest investors in TransCanada, the builder of the pipeline).   Local police hid the protest from public view by erecting white sheets around the action (Tuesday March 19).

Kirkland, Washington: Over 40 people rallied outside Michels Corporation’s office in death costumes (Monday, March 18).

Salt Lake City, Utah: Over 60 residents blockaded the entrance to a Chevron tar sands refinery and turned away six trucks (March 23).

Kingston, New York: Three dozen protesters rallied at a local TD Bank office (March 16-17).

Asheville, North Carolina: Over 60 people shut down a TD Bank branch (March 22).

Tampa, Florida; Cushing, Oklahoma; Boulder, Colorado, and other cities:  Banner drops on major highways (all week).

A complete list of actions for the week can be found on the Tar Sands Blockade website.

The week of action was organized by a coalition of national grassroots environmental organizations and other community groups, including, TarSandsBlockade, SaneEnergy Project, and others. The actions targeted the top corporate and financial investors in the Keystone Pipeline and the broader tar sands industry, including TD Bank, Valero Corporation, Tortoise Investment, and others. A major target was TD Bank — one of the largest investors in TransCanada (the builder of the Keystone Pipeline). Peaceful actions in at least six cities took place against TD Bank, including calling on TD customers to withdraw funds.


Washington DC: Protesters at TD Bank, March 19. Image Credit:

Washington DC Police Shielding TD Bank Protesters from Public View, March 19. Image Credit:

Protesters in Salt Lake City Rally at Chevron Oil Facility.  March 23.  Photo Credit:

Salt Lake City, March 23: at Chevron Oil Facility. Image Credit:

New York City, March 23: Protesters at local TD Bank. Image Credit:

San Antonio, Texas, March 23, at Valero Corporate Headquarters. Image Credit:

Los Angeles, March 23, at offices of John Hancock Insurance, whose parent company owns over 4 millions shares in TransCanada. Image Credit:

The movement against tar sands development is also spreading on college campuses: Over 200 university student organizations in the US have joined a national fossil-fuel divestment campaign, demanding that university endowment funds rid themselves of coaloil, and gas stocks. The divest movement is also emerging in local government bodies; at least one major city (Seattle) has announced they will be divesting completely from all fossil fuel investments.

The stigmatization of the tar sands industry is also growing outside the United States. In Germany, as previously reported on Planetsave, the largest science institution in the nation — one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions — last week severed its ties with a major Alberta Tar Sands research project, citing fears to ‘our environmental reputation’. In England, a growing protest movement is demanding that the UK reject proposals to import tar sands oil from Canada. Even in Israel, fossil-fuel protesters turned out to greet President Obama during his visit last week with demands that he reject the Keystone Pipeline.

Oxford, England, March 8 2013.  Image Credit:

One of the more potentially confrontational forms of resistance to the tar sands is now developing in Canada: an alliance of First Nation leaders have now pledged resistance to tar sands pipelines in alliance with indigenous groups in the United States. A FIrst Nation leader discusses the growing tar sands protest movement in Canada in this TV interview:

Lighted banner over highway outside Madison, Wisconsin, March 2013

Lighted banner over highway outside Madison, Wisconsin, March 2013

The growing protest movement comes as the US State Department now says it will no longer provide public viewing access to the ‘public comments’ on a key environmental impact statement (EIS) about the Keystone Pipeline which it recently released. The report took many observers by surprise by minimizing the environmental and climate change implications of the pipeline, suggesting no reason to not move forward with it. The “45 day public comment period” was expected to produce massive comments against the pipeline.

Shielding the general public from the awareness of such opposition, nevertheless, isn’t the only thing the State Department wants hidden from the public about its relationship to the pipeline approval process:

This last week, internal documents acquired by Mother Jones Magazine revealed that three senior contractors involved in drafting the Keystone EIS for the State Department were veteran consultants for TransCanada (the builder of the pipeline) — a fact which was redacted (i.e. hidden) in the original public release of the report.

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About the Author

Don Lieber has written extensively on human rights, war and disarmament, and environmental issues. His work has been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, DeSmog Blog, and many others. He also plays bass for the NYC-based band "Wifey" and scrubs surgeries.

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