Keystone pipeline foes create ‘human oil spill’ at rally; hundreds arrested

Keystone pipeline foes create 'human oil spill' at rally; hundreds arrested

(CNN) — Hundreds of students and youth organizers were arrested outside the White House Sunday as they protested against the Keystone XL pipeline under review by the Obama administration.

Some demonstrators zip-tied their hands to the White House fence, and others acted out a “human oil spill,” lying on black tarps in front of the White House.

Nearly a thousand students began their march at Georgetown University and proceeded to the outside of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Washington home, where they created a smaller human oil spill. Marchers then headed to Lafayette Square for a rally. Afterward, around a third of the crowd then peacefully moved to the White House fence.

Participants said they hoped that a strong statement from younger voters would further pressure President Barack Obama to reject the project.

“(This is) a youth-organized action to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, who participated in XL Dissent, the name of the rally. “Because the youth vote was a crucial part in both of his elections, we know that we elected him and we voted for a climate champion, not another pipeline president.”

The $5.3 billion pipeline, which would begin in northern Hardisty, Alberta, would transport tar sands oil over 1,179 miles through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to connect with existing segments in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Once completed, it would carry 830,000 barrels a day to Houston and Port Arthur on the Gulf Coast. Proponents of the pipeline point to the thousands of potential jobs that could result from its construction.

Environmental groups oppose the pipeline because extracting and refining the tar sands oil emits 17% more of the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change than conventional oil production. Environmental advocates also say projects like the pipeline reinforce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels rather than encourage green technologies.

The project by TransCanada still needs federal approval because the pipeline would cross an international border. The State Department released an environmental report on the pipeline January 31. The public now has 90-day period for public comment and consultation.

Stracco expressed considerable skepticism about the report.

“The report that came out of the State Department is as dirty as the pipeline itself,” he said. “Any suggestion that an 800,000 barrel a day oil sands pipeline will not contribute to climate change is incorrect.”

Kerry, who is known for his effort to combat climate change, will determine if the pipeline project is in the national interest and make a recommendation to Obama. The final call rests with the President.

CNN’s Anna Wiernicki, Eddie Gross, Dennis Ting and Tom Cohen contributed to this report

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