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August 26, 2013

Telling Obama to Stand With Us Against Tar Sands

Working with 350.org and other allies, the Sierra Club has been bird-dogging President Obama and Vice President Biden almost everywhere they go, sending the message to do the right thing on climate, reject Keystone XL. Last week was a veritable whirlwind of a week, with six Obama/Biden visibility events planned over two days — Vice President Biden in Cape Neddick, Maine, and Newport, Rhode Island; and President Obama in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Binghamton, New York, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Many thanks to the on-the-ground leaders who made these events a success.

Keystone XL Visibility Amidst the Frack Attacks

In New York and Pennsylvania, we had the opportunity to build on efforts by local groups like Food and Water Watch and Western NY Drilling Defense and combined the no-tar-sands message with no-fracking.

As an example of the press we got, here’s the Buffalo News:

“The largest contingent – perhaps four dozen – was opposed to ‘fracking,’ the Keystone Pipeline and other environmentally questionable energy issues.”


Some of the environmental protesters cited positive things that Obama has done for the environment on the subject of climate change. Bill Nowak, a Sierra Club member, said the fracking protesters were there largely to spread their message and encourage support for alternative energies among the students and other attendees. “The president and governor can only do what mass movements allow them to do. A lot of our friends are going in there (to hear Obama),” he said. “He needs people to stand behind him.”

Below is the banner 350.org printed and shipped in Buffalo, the site of Obama’s first New York visit. New York Says: No Keystone XL, No Fracking.


More photos from Western NY Drilling Defense.

Here’s Bob Ciesielski, Sierra Club Niagara (Buffalo) Group leader on the experience:

There were 75+ protesters at the University with posters, signs, speeches, chants and songs. The theme was no fracking, no Keystone XL pipeline and 100% renewable energy by 2030.

While there were animated and respectable showings in Buffalo and Syracuse, the biggest turnout came in Binghamton, where hundreds of demonstrators lined the president’s motorcade route for blocks. Obama could not have missed the message.

Here’s a video of his motorcade arriving on campus.

For the last of the president’s four appearances, he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Chapter Chair Wendi Taylor, who drove up from Harrisburg, reports that there were between 50 and 60 people outside with signs. Taylor met up with members of the local Sierra Club group, as well as the Green Party, and some students who doing outreach and organizing around climate change, rather than just fracking.

Many thanks for New York and Pennsylvania events go to the on-the-ground leaders — in particular Sierra Club Niagara Group chair Lynda Schneekloth, Susquehanna Group (Binghamton) chair Scott Lauffer, and Pennsylvania Chapter Chair Wendy Taylor, and our key partners Food and Water Watch, Western New Yorkers Against Fracking, and 350.org.

Tar Sands Coverage Despite Cancellation

Though the vice president cancelled his Rhode Island and Maine appearances because of his son’s health, and we subsequently cancelled those two visibility events, our work there was not in vain. Our plans made news. Here’s the Portsmouth Herald the day before the event:

Biden is expected to be greeted...by placard-carrying members of 350.org and the Sierra Club encouraging [him] to “stand with us against tar sands.”

Kudos to exemplary organizing in Rhode Island by 350.org, Fossil Fuel Free Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Sierra Club Chapter. Special shoutout to Abel Collins, Sierra Club chapter director, for meeting with the campus security, Newport police, and secret service in advance of the event.

In Maine — more of a challenge because of the remote location — special thanks go to Maine 350’s Sarah Lachance, who did a recon mission to the site to scope out parking, meeting location, trolley schedules and so on.


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