Coloradans Protest Sen. Bennet’s Keystone XL Vote & Gov. Hickenlooper’s Tar Sands Trip

Here’s an update from our 350.org Colorado organizer Micah Parkin on two great actions that just took place: 

Coloradans Protest Governor’s Trip to Tar Sands in Canada for Energy Development and Bennet’s Pro-KXL Pipeline Vote

By Micah Parkin

Today in Denver, Colorado, around 100 protesters gathered for a “Don’t Frack Colorado for Tar Sands Oil” action in front of the Governor’s Mansion and then marched to Sen. Bennet’s Denver office to express disappointment with his pro-Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline vote Friday.  We dressed in black and staged “human oil spills” at both locations.

Today’s event was scheduled initially as a send-off for Governor Hickenlooper, who is travelling to Canada March 26-29, leading a delegation of 20 including representatives from the Canadian Consulate Office, on an “energy-focused mission”, with a stop by the tar sands. That likely means that the Governor plans to promote the use of fracked gases from Colorado to develop tar sands oil. Huge amounts of natural gas and fresh water are used to superheat the tar sands in order to get the oil out, and natural gas condensate is used to viscosify the sludgy tar sands oil so that it will flow in pipelines.

So we gathered at the Governor’s Mansion, held signs, chanted, rapped, and formed a human oil spill. Multiple group leaders spoke including folks from Idle No More, Eco-Justice Ministries, GoFossilFree CO campaigns, Earth Guardians youth group, 350 Colorado and more.

Then, since Senator Michael Bennet’s deeply disappointed us with a pro-KXL pipeline vote last Friday, we decided to extend today’s event and marched six blocks from the Governor’s Mansion to Bennet’s office to express ourselves.  Tens of thousands of Coloradans have written letters, made phone calls and attended events urging our leaders to oppose the KXL pipeline.  More than 1,000 people joined our #ForwardOnClimate/No KXL Pipeline event last month at Civic Center Park. 29,000 Coloradans have signed letters urging Senators Bennet and Udall to reject the pipeline. 40 people dropped off a sign-on letter at Bennet’s office this past Monday signed by 1,811 businesses, organizations and families. 

And yet Sen. Bennet still voted for the KXL pipeline. So who is he representing with his pro-KXL vote?  We can only imagine that the vote has to do with the hundreds of thousands he has taken from oil and gas companies.

Bennet’s staff came out to front steps wrapped in “Global Warming Crime Scene Tape”, asked us to stop chanting so loudly (they have neighbors who might call the police), and explained that the vote Friday was a procedural vote simply stating that the KXL pipeline would have budget implications. What?  Well that’s certainly not how everyone else is interpreting the vote, so we asked if he supports the KXL pipeline.  No answer.  We asked if he would write an op-ed explaining his vote.  Crickets.  The crowd repeatedly asked why he would vote in favor of the KXL pipeline.  No explanation.

The staff just spoke of “balanced energy policy”.  We made very clear that there are no policy actions that could make up for the emissions from the KXL pipeline – that it is a fuse to a carbon bomb, potentially raising CO2 to 600ppm, which NASA scientist James Hansen has said would be “game over” for the climate. Climate impacts are already causing devastating storms, like Hurricane Sandy, which cost billions of dollars, and record-breaking wildfires, drought, and crop failures closer to home.

Dozens of people shared their disgust with Sen. Bennet’s pro-KXL vote and explained that it is not possible to be serious about addressing climate change and simultaneously support the KXL pipeline.  We showed them what a human oil spill looks like as they walked back inside. 

Many of the people who attended today campaigned for Michael Bennet in the last election. It’s doubtful that will happen again.  We hope Sen. Bennet’s staff clearly communicate to him how furious people are with him for putting big oil profits over a safe climate and clean energy future. It’s time to stop scraping the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel and move beyond “extreme energy sources” like tar sands oil and fracking, which are unacceptably polluting to land, air and water and contribute excessively to climate change. 

Although Friday’s vote in the Senate was purely symbolic and non-binding, it was a legacy moment – a litmus test showing which leaders truly want to stop climate catastrophe and which are happy to usher it in for big oil profits.  Sen. Bennet and 61 other Senators failed that test and their constituents.

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