Thousands gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota Saturday afternoon to march in protest of the growing network of tar sands pipelines in America, singling out one pipeline — the Alberta Clipper — in particular.
Activists from across the Midwest were joined by environmental leaders such as 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, and Indigenous Environmental Network Director Tom Goldtooth in protesting tar sands, an unconventional and carbon-intensive fuel that’s found largely in the Athabasca region of Alberta, Canada. About 5,000 people attended the march, according to the Sierra Club’s Mark Westlund — making it the largest anti-tar sands march the Midwest has ever seen.
The main goal of the protest was to emphasize that the conversation about tar sands and fossil fuels was about more than just the Keystone XL pipeline, McKibben said on a press call in the leadup to the march.
“It’s gone way way way beyond Keystone,” he said. “That one got the attention…but the beautiful result has been the ‘Keystonization’ of pretty much every pipeline company across the country.”
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That “Keystonization” means that Americans have started to protest multiple pipeline construction and expansion projects, including Alberta Clipper. Pipeline company Enbridge is in the process of increasing capacity of Alberta Clipper, which carries tar sands from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, from 450,000 to 570,000 barrels per day, with the ultimate goal of increase the pipeline’s capacity to 880,000 bpd — more than the capacity of Keystone XL.
McKibben said he hopes the protest in St. Paul will bring more attention to these other pipeline projects, which are being proposed all over the country.
“This fight expanded beyond Keystone almost immediately. People have been fighting other pipelines with great power,” he said. “The press hasn’t payed as much attention because it hasn’t involved presidential politics in the same way as Keystone has…We hope this rally will help bring things front and center.”
Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club, said that the march will help drive home to President Obama just how much opposition there is to tar sands in the U.S.
“Today’s march and rally are sending a clear message to the president and his administration: this nation doesn’t want or need dirty fuels from Canada’s tar sands,” he said in a statement. “If we’re going to keep our air and water clean, cut climate pollution, and protect Tribal and farming communities here and in Canada, we must ultimately keep tar sands oil in the ground. The president cannot ignore us because the movement demanding clean energy solutions to the climate crisis is growing stronger and more diverse.”