Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

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About a dozen protesters turned out in Des Moines on Saturday for a demonstration against a proposed pipeline that would carry oil from Canada through the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

The “Draw the Line” rally outside the federal building downtown was one of six events in Iowa and part of a nationwide “day of action” against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster from one end to the other,” said Jon McAlister, of Des Moines. “The biggest concern is for climate change. We are sending a message to the world if we approve this pipeline that we don’t care.”

Protesters carried signs carried signs with slogans like “There is no Planet B” and “CO2 is a chemical weapon” and shouted out slogans to passing cars and pedestrians leaving the Downtown Farmers’ Market. They also circulated a petition opposing the pipeline.

The pipeline proposal has been the subject of a years-long, pitched battle between environmentalists and supporters of oil-and-gas production, with the Obama administration stuck in the middle.

Environmental advocacy organizations have couched the administration’s decision on the pipeline as a key test of its commitment to addressing climate change, arguing that the United States should not abet the energy-intensive production of a pollutant that contributes to global warming. They also warn of environmental degradation around the pipeline.

“We’re trying to send a message to the world,” McAlister said. “Are we committed to the fossil fuel industry or are we committed to changing course? Let’s be on the right side of history.”

Supporters, meanwhile, say the pipeline will create thousands of jobs, allow for significant growth in oil production within the United States as well as Canada and reduce the country’s reliance on fuel imported from overseas by up to 40 percent, all without significant impacts to the environment around the pipeline.

If constructed, the 36-inch Keystone XL pipeline would run 1,179 miles from the oil sand fields of Alberta, Canada, through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska. It could transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day, and will cost an estimated $5.3 billion to build.

Pipeline owner TransCanada is currently seeking a presidential permit from the U.S. State Department. President Barack Obama could make the final decision on whether to approve the project later this year or in early 2014.

Saturday’s demonstration was timed with a resolution now under discussion in the U.S. Senate urging Obama to approve the timeline. Protesting in front of the federal building hopefully would draw the attention of Iowa’s two senators, McAlister said.

Other “Draw the Line” rallies and demonstrations were held in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Grinnell and Hiawatha on Saturday, as well as dozens of other cities across the country.

The effort was organized in Iowa by state Sen. Robb Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who has written and lectured widely on the issue of climate change and argues addressing it should be a national priority.