Ralliers gather around a mock Keystone pipe before hearing speeches from elected officials
Kelsey Brugger

Concerned citizens joined area officials last Saturday to voice opposition against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, a project to transport heavy crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. Construction for the final leg of the project depends on presidential approval.

To urge President Obama to abandon the project, zealous participants rallied at Alameda Park on the sunny weekend morning to call for increased funding for energy alternatives and less dependence on fossil fuels.

The event included a 90-foot mock pipeline — labeled with slogans in English and Spanish — that participants carried down to Stearns Wharf. The group briefly stopped at the courthouse to hear speeches and take photos, before snaking its way through the State Street hustle and bustle. State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Das Williams, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Environmental Defense Center (EDC) lawyer Linda Krop, and SBCC Student Senate President Elie Katzenson all spoke to the crowd.

“Nature has not been at all shy,” said Jackson, noting the two-tiered dilemma of climate change and the booming oil industry. “We’re no longer able to put our heads in the sand.”

At the courthouse, Krop told the crowd that organized action on the South Coast has successfully terminated 40 offshore federal leases, thereby axing dozens of potential platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara County. “We can raise our voices locally; we still have more oil drilling proposals,” she said. “Venoco is back in Carpinteria, and they still want to drill at the Ellwood Pier.”

Krop also talked about “California’s Keystone,” or the impending Santa Maria Energy Project, which would drill more than 100 new oil wells between Lompoc and Orcutt using a technique called cyclic steaming. She urged participants to attend a Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday to oppose the shale oil extraction project that would be one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the county.

The speakers disputed arguments that the nationwide pipeline would create construction jobs, and insisted instead that a commitment to alternative energy would create just as many opportunities.

Mayor Helene Schneider also supported Saturday’s efforts and told participants, “We can’t have environmental protection and job creation be on polar oppositions.”

The rally and subsequent march coincided with similar events occurring in hundreds of cities in the U.S. and Europe this weekend. Santa Barbara’s event was a collaborative effort by 350sb.org, Citizens Climate Lobby, Los Padres Sierra Club, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), and UCSB Environmental Affairs Board.


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