Greenfire leads campus campaign against controversial oil pipeline

Emily Zawacki

As part of the Tar Sands Action project, campus organizations including Greenfire, Amnesty International and SWAHP have been working to protest the planned Keystone XL pipeline. Junior Adam Kranz is spearheading the campus efforts after his arrest during a protest against the pipeline in Washington, D.C.

This pipeline, proposed by the TransCanada Corporation, would carry crude oil 1,700 miles on its way from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

With a projected cost of $7 billion, the pipeline is planned to carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day and create thousands of construction jobs. However, much controversy and debate has arisen over the likely environmental damage the pipeline would cause. In order to extract oil from the tar sands, forests must be cut down, high amounts of carbon dioxide may be emitted, water sources will be threatened and spills and leaks are likely.

In less than a month, President Obama will come to a decision regarding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Through the Tar Sands Action campaign, activists are working to encourage Obama to deny its construction. A sit-in to stop the pipeline was held August 20 to September 3 in Washington D.C..

During this two-week period of sustained civil disobedience, 1,252 people were arrested, among them junior environmental science major Kranz. Since participating in this protest, Kranz has presented on the issue in order to create awareness of the environmental dangers.

Greenfire has been asking students to sign or write letters to President Obama persuading him to reject the pipeline proposal.

“A lot of [Greenfire’s] action has been concentrated on stuff at the campus level in the past,” said Kranz, “but I think this is a good step for us to move forward with campaigns that are doing advocacy for things that affect Lawrence, Lawrence students and their future, like climate change, but also issues that are affecting other people.”

Last Saturday, Kranz spoke about his experiences protesting in D.C. and educated students and Greenfire members about the potential environmental dangers of the tar sands pipeline. Students then composed handwritten letters urging President Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, citing the likely environmental damage, its faulty technology and its destruction of indigenous lands.

Pending funding, Greenfire hopes to send students to the final action of the Tar Sands Campaign on Nov. 6, precisely one year before the 2012 elections. Protestors plan to encircle the White House in a motion of solidarity and a final attempt to send their message to the President.

Lawrence students who want to contribute to the protest may sign Greenfire’s prewritten letters to President Obama. These letters call for Obama to “Be the President you want to be. Be the President the people need.” Greenfire hopes to mail off approximately 1,000 letters as part of their campaign.

Kranz concluded, “This isn’t just an issue about climate change. It’s about environmental justice. It’s not an abstract thing. People in Canada are already dying of cancers. Our way of life is already being destroyed by the infrastructure and the spills that have taken place. It’s important to remember that this issue is not just about preserving the environment, it’s about protecting people.”