Latest Update: Keystone XL Back on Obama's Desk

News — the tar sands action team December 23, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

Dear Friends,

We’ve been doing our best the last couple of weeks to keep you up-to-date on the machinations about Keystone in Washington. “Our best” in this case has only been so-so, because the whole process has been incredibly confusing.

But it seems to be getting a little clearer now. Today the House agreed to legislation for a payroll tax cut that also includes language forcing the president to decide one way or the other on the Keystone pipeline in the next 60 days.

Our hope is that the president will use the opportunity to deny the permit, and sooner rather than later.  His administration has made it clear many times over the past few weeks that the demand for quick approval attached to this legislation would result in the rejection of the pipeline.

As White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted a few days ago: the bill “simply shortens  the review process in a way that virtually guarantees that the pipeline will NOT be approved.
” No one could responsibly approve such a project under the gun; even the Canadian government announced this month that they would delay the review of proposed  pipelines to the Pacific for a year because of environmental concerns.

You have patiently and firmly explained to the president for the last six months why this pipeline is a bad idea—and by “you” I mean the twenty top scientists who sent  a letter explaining the climate impacts, the ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the dozens of tribal leaders who signed the Mother Earth Accord, the 1253 people who got arrested, the 12,000 who circled the White House, the 500,000 who filed public comments on the plan, the many many more who sent letters and emails and made phone calls to the White House and Congress.

You’ve done an amazing job; we’ll know before long whether we need you to make one more grand push, and as soon as we know you’ll know.

In the meantime, please enjoy the holidays. We’re getting our first small snowfall of the season in Vermont, which I’m taking as a good omen.

So many thanks,

Bill McKibben for


Actually Mr. Gingrich, We are the 99%

News — the tar sands action team December 21, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

Newt Gingrich went out of his way to try to smear us as extremists. Not only is he wrong about who we are – he’s also wrong about who the real extremists are. The real extremists are the people who want to dig up forests to get dirty oil to send 1700 miles across precious drinking water only so that it can be burned and put catastrophic amounts of carbon into the atmosphere to alter our planet’s climate for good. That’s extremism.


48 Hours Later… an Update on Congress

News — the tar sands action team December 19, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

Dear Friends,

About 48 hours ago, I told you we’d probably have a clearer picture of what was going on with the pipeline fight in 48 hours.

I was wrong, mistaken, and also incorrect. As it stands now, things in Washington couldn’t be muddier. The Senate, with the White House’s consent, passed a payroll tax cut plan with a rider attached that would have forced a speedy review of Keystone. That sounds bad — except that administration spokesmen said quite bluntly that if they were forced to do a quick review they’d deny the permit.

That sounds good — except that now the Tea Party caucus in the House has decided they don’t want the payroll tax cut, and they do want the Senate to come back to DC for more talks, and…you get the drift. At least for the moment, Keystone is flotsam on the unchartable tides of DC politics.


Update on Congress and Keystone XL

News — the tar sands action team December 17, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

Dear Friends,

As you might know, the Keystone tar sands pipeline is back in play.

This morning, the Senate passed a bill that requires a 60-day, expedited approval process for the pipeline in return for a payroll tax cut, and the President has said he will sign it.

The news has been swirling around Washington the last few days, with one report after another of deals and deadlines. (It’s a little weird to think that six months ago, when we started the campaign to stop this pipeline, almost no one had even heard of this thing and now it’s the center of frantic bargaining—that’s a real tribute to your efforts).

Here’s what we do know:

  1. The dirty energy industry wants the pipeline fast-tracked, and is demanding that the President grant or deny a permit within two months. They’re going to do all they can to make that happen.
  2. The administration knows that Americans don’t want that permit granted. They know because many of you encircled the White House in November,  and submitted more public comments than on any energy project in history, and because yesterday the climate movement flooded the White House switchboard with so many phone calls that the busy signal was the sound of the day. For all that work, thank you.

Here’s what we don’t know: what happens next.

Our hope — and what you should ask the President for when you write him — is that when he signs the bill he will say the obvious thing:

“Two months is not long enough to review the pipeline. The Canadians themselves have just delayed review of their tar sands pipelines over safety concerns, and we’ve just come through a year that set a record for billion-dollar climate-related disasters; I’m not going to do a rush job just to please the oil industry lobbyists. So this pipeline is dead.”

Since the State Department has already, in essence, said two months is not enough time, this should be straightforward.

We should know how it’s going to play out within 48 hours or so. We’re of course ready to fight like heck.

But for this weekend? If you haven’t gotten through to the White House, or you think you can round up some friends, you can send them a message here:  (the switchboard is now closed for the weekend).

Once you’ve done that, I recommend eggnog, football, caroling, Hannukah-shopping – and checking the email every once in a while? We’re hanging fire on this, and we’ll let you know when we find out what’s going down and if rapid reaction of some kind is required.

So so many thanks for your continued good hearted work,


P.S. We know one other thing too. On Thursday night the Republican debating society came out in favor the pipeline, which is easy for them to do since they’ve all now denied climate science. Newt Gingrich in particular blamed “San Francisco environmental extremists” with holding things up. I’m sure our California crew is happy for the shout-out, but it seemed a little unfair to Nebraska farmers, Texas ranchers, Florida College students, New York trade unionists, Wall Street occupiers, and even us Vermont granola eaters. We’re a big broad bunch and we’re going to stay that way!


President Obama About to Cave on Keystone XL?

News — the tar sands action team December 16, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

It all comes down to Barack Obama.

As I type this, Big Oil’s representatives in the House and Senate are pushing legislation that would rush approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Up until now President Obama has stood strong, threatening to reject any bill that includes the pipeline. But in the last hour, some terrible news has begun to leak from DC: President Obama seems to be on the verge of caving on Keystone.

The next few hours will be absolutely crucial — the President needs to hear from you that cutting a back-room deal with Big Oil on Keystone XL is unacceptable. If he steps up makes a public threat to veto this bill, he can stop this pipeline in its tracks.

To keep his promises, President Obama needs to veto legislation that would rush approval of Keystone XL. This pipeline is a threat to our climate and jobs and needs to be stopped.

President Obama came into office promising to “end the tyranny of oil.” This is his chance to prove he was serious. If he’s not, he needs to know right now that there will be real consequences.

Big Oil cut a back-room deal with the dirtiest Members of Congress to attach this legislation to a must-pass tax cut bill. These kinds of deals exemplify the tyranny Big Oil exercises over our government, and underscores why the President needs to threaten a veto.

Your calls right now are absolutely crucial, and you should also be getting ready to get back into the streets in the days and weeks to come. We’re dusting off our plans to go to Obama 2012 offices and raise a ruckus. Call the White House, but also get in touch with your friends to start plotting your next steps locally.

Thanks to you, this fight isn’t over yet — not by a long shot.

Let’s go,

Duncan Meisel for the team at


Oil Spill at John Boehner's Office

News — the tar sands action team December 14, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

Photo by Josh Lopez

Occupy & Crash Boehner’s Office over Backroom Attempt to Revive Keystone XL

Fossil fuel industry spent over $42 million to elect politicians involved; Activists respond with “Human Oil Spill” on Boehner’s front door

Cincinnati, OH- Members of Occupy Cincinnati joined climate activists in storming House Speaker John Boehner’s West Chester, Ohio office this morning with a “human oil spill” in response to last night’s vote to force through Keystone XL. The fossil fuel industry has poured an estimated $42,000,000 into campaign coffers of the 234 House members voting in favor, including $1,100,000 to Rep. Boehner alone, according to The industry lists the pipeline as a top priority.

“The House brings shame on itself when its members take tens of millions in big oil money and then do the industry’s bidding. Keystone XL creates no net jobs and pours carbon into the atmosphere. That’s why millions across the country opposed it,” said Bill McKibben, founder of “Its only beneficiaries are the fossil fuel industry and the politicians they support.”


House Votes to Expedite Keystone XL Decision

News — the tar sands action team December 13, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

In response to the House vote to expedite the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, author and founder Bill McKibben said:

“Hundreds of thousands of people around the country rallied this fall to oppose the climate-killing Keystone pipeline, and the administration heard them and ordered a new review. Now a tiny coterie of Congressmen is trying to revive the plan, and every one of them has taken big payments from the Big Oil. Everyone around America can do the math–all you have to do is follow the dirty money. (1)

“It’s inspiring to see the White House, and Sen. Majority Leader Reid, actually telling Big Oil a firm no–that’s the proper response to a tantrum. We’re all getting tired of seeing polluters hold the political process hostage.”


1. The House members who supported the bill netted an estimated $43,000,000 in dirty energy money cumulatively since 1999. Source:


UPDATE: Sen. Reid Says Keystone XL Legislation is Dead on Arrival

News — the tar sands action team December 9, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

After Tar Sands Action supporters sent 4500 messages to their Senators in under 24 hours, Sen. Harry Reid has just announced that legislation to force approval of Keystone XL will be dead on arrival in the Senate:

Here is Reid’s comment: “If the House sends us their bill with Keystone in it, they are just wasting valuable time because it will not pass the Senate.”

After an incredible grassroots led effort to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, on November 11th President Obama rejected a flawed, corrupt and incomplete environmental impact review process led by the State Department, and sent the entire project back for a full re-review, including an assessment of the pipeline’s impact on climate change.

In response, Big Oil’s represenatives in Congress put together legislation designed to force approval of the pipeline, and attached it to must-pass legislation supported by the President. Reid’s comment shows that this tactic will fail.

The continued backlash against legislative attempts to rush approval of the pipeline shows that the movement against the tar sands and fossil fuel extraction will continue to grow and exercise power.

To send a message to your Senator encouraging them to stand strong on Keystone XL, click here:


Tar Sands Action Movement Continues in Atlanta

News — the tar sands action team December 7, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

This post was written by Brandon Sutton, who hosted a Movement Strategy Session in Atlanta, GA

On Wednesday November 30, a group of 14 engaged environmental champions gathered in Atlanta to discuss the future of the Tar Sands Action movement and our ideas for moving ahead. Several concerned citizens joined with people from the Sierra Club, the Citizens Climate Lobby, the US Green Building Council, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, and MARTA for the meeting, as well as a great grandmother that is concerned about the world that is being left for her great grandchildren. This broad support says something to me about the state of the movement and the potential to rally people around big, urgent issues we face in our country and around the world.

We discussed the initial victory in the Keystone XL battle, but took a cautiously optimistic stance due to the tendency for these things to be repackaged and resubmitted once people stop paying attention. Recent events in Congress make it more clear than ever that we cannot rest on this issue and we must keep up the pressure in order to permanently kill the plans to build Keystone XL.

There were two parts to our discussion on plans moving forward: local initiatives that we could impact and also major paradigm shifting ideas that are on the horizon that we could champion as a collective national group.


Tomorrow: Top Tar Sands Lobbyist Visits the White House

News — the tar sands action team December 6, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

Tomorrow one of the top lobbyists for the the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be meeting President Barack Obama in the White House.

This particular lobbyist gets special access for one reason only: because he also happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada.
Prime Minister Harper will technically be in town for a “state visit”, but we know from multiple sources that Keystone XL and the tar sands will be high on his agenda when he meets Obama.1

So we’re mobilizing to greet Prime Minister Harper just as we would any other lobbyist for dirty oil: with a fired up crowd, chants, banners, and a crystal-clear message
. Which is to say: a BIG rally is planned at the Canadian Embassy Wednesday at 10:30 to 11:30 am, and you should come join the fun.

Harper has a big say in the long term future of the tar sands, and it’s critical that we send him a message that we will continue to work to stop Keystone XL and any other tar sands project. Can you make it tomorrow?

Here are the details:

What: Rally to Greet Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
When: Wednedsay December 7th 10:30-11:30 AM
Where: Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Click here to get more info and RSVP on Facebook


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