"We need to step up" - Keystone XL protest in Potsdam

North Country Public Radio | January 14, 2015 | Column by David Sommerstein

As Senators in Washington wrangled over the Keystone XL pipeline bill Tuesday, environmental activists rallied across the country to keep the pipeline from becoming reality.

A small group braved single digit temperatures to express their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. A bill is currently under debate in Congress. Photo: David Sommerstein.

A group in Plattsburgh, N.Y., cancelled its event due to the cold, but a small, hardy group stood outside the Potsdam, N.Y., post office in five-degree weather to protest Keystone.

Boots squeaked on snow on the shady side of Elm Street. 8 people shivered and held signs saying, “Veto Keystone” and “Forward Clean Energy.” Heather Sullivan-Catlin is organizer of the North Country 350 Alliance. It is the local branch of a national effort to keep carbon dioxide levels in check to reduce the effects of climate change.

Sullivan-Catlin said the Keystone XL pipeline is a turning point. The tar sands oil of Alberta it would ferret south represent the second largest reserves of oil in the world. To keep climate change from getting worse, she said that oil cannot be burned. "It’s not just your typical oil. It’s some of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels," said Sullivan-Catlin, who is a sociology professor at SUNY Potsdam. "It has a much heavier impact, in terms of global climate change, than other fossil fuels. It has to stay in the ground. We are here to keep it in the ground."

New York’s North Country has already felt the effects of climate change, from more powerful storms like Hurricane Irene to more flooded farm fields in spring.

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik voted for the Keystone pipeline when it passed the House. She said it would create construction jobs in the Midwest. She also said it would reduce the number of dangerous trains hauling crude oil through the Champlain Valley and other parts of the region.

The protestors in Potsdam, however, said the United States need to take the lead on saying yes to renewable energy and no to more fossil fuels. Kaitlyn Lawrence of Pierrepont said President Obama is right to threaten to veto a Keystone pipeline bill if it passes Congress. She said, "If Obama rejects this, this will show… It’s more symbolic to stop it. It’s not going to solve all the problems but we’re a world leader, and it’s important that the U.S. steps up."

If built, Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States.


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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.