VIDEO: Climate Leaders Call on President Obama to Reject Keystone XL
United Church of Christ Pastor Bronksi warned pregnant women and people with respiratory problems to leave the room Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., when he donned thick black rubber gloves and a protective apron and poured out a jar of toxic tar sands from the Mayflower, Ark. spill, demonstrating what makes the dirty fuel source so different from conventional crude oil.
Bronski was the last presenter among a group of climate leaders who chose to speak out against tar sands and TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline at Wednesday’s press conference. Tar sands, these experts say, are among the most dangerous and toxic fossil fuels in the world.
Investor, philanthropist and environmental activist Tom Steyer spoke to the room of press and activists as well, expressing his trust in President Obama to make the right decision on Keystone XL.
“You know how important it is -- and that a majority of Americans want to see positive action on climate policy,” he said, referring to the president. “That’s why I’m confident he will turn down the Keystone pipeline.”
Tar sands have had a devastating effect on communities across the country, from the transportation to the refining of the toxic substance. Steyer came with a video, showing the testimonies of families in Mayflower, Ark. who have had their lives uprooted when one of Exxon’s pipelines carrying tar sands oil spilled, sending thousands of gallons of crude into their backyards. Many of the residents had no idea that the pipeline was even there.
Leslie Fields, director of the Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program for the Sierra Club, highlighted another community devastated by tar sands. In April, an area of Detroit, Michigan, known as the most polluted zip code in the entire state (48217), suffered from a fire and an explosion at the Marathon tar sands refinery. Refineries that process tar sands have an awful track record of safety in their facilities, and in the communities surrounding, and this fire is just the latest in a decade-long series of dangerous incidents and constant pollution. During the fire in April, community members in 48217 suffered from inhaling increased levels of multiple toxins, including lead, mercury, and many chemical compounds that are unknown due to the secretive practices of the oil industry.
“Pipelines will break. That’s why we need plumbers,” stated Van Jones, former green jobs advisor to President Obama. He was one of the many experts present at the Press Club who are passionate about climate, and know that if the President approves Keystone, it’s game over for the environment.
“You can’t have an all-you-can-eat diet plan -- and you can’t have an all-of-the-above climate strategy,” he said.
Tom Steyer hopes to mobilize the same activists who worked hard to get President Obama elected in 2012 and who also care about the environment. As a result, he is launching a new online campaign dedicated to doing just that: showing the president that Americans really do want positive, sincere action on climate change, and that rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline is the first step. We certainly hope he’ll listen.
--Sierra Club Media Team Intern Kristen Elmore