Harrisonburg, VA—Over 70 people marched outside a private luncheon held by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) in Harrisonburg this Wednesday to protest the Senator’s recent vote supporting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Marchers included local citizens active in area environmental groups and area college students from JMU and EMU and high school students with the iMatter Youth Council. 

Holding “No KXL” and “Startup the Clean Energy Economy” banners, protesters marched outside of Clementine Restaurant as Warner walked into the roundtable discussion. A few citizens were able to stop Warner and question his support for the pipeline and related climate change consequences. “We visited Warner’s Richmond office last Monday and requested he respond to our question about why he flipped support for Keystone – why is he choosing this pipeline over the security of our children’s future. He didn’t respond within a week, so we’re here now demanding accountability,” said Herb Fitzell. 

“Virginians have already seen impacts of our heating planet such as sea level rise and more severe flooding and extreme weather. Senator Warner cannot claim to agree with the science of climate change, and then turn around and support projects that will put us on a path to more climate disruption,” said Cathy Strickler, local CAAV member.

Senator Warner has historically supported measures to reduce climate change. However, he was one of 17 Democrats to side with Republicans during last Friday’s “vote-a-rama” by voting for a non-binding amendment expressing approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL is a 1,700 mile pipeline that would carry tar sands fuel from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Mexico, where it would be exported to international markets. TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, admits that the project would only create 35 permanent jobs. Tar sands fuel is far more carbon intensive than regular fuel, making Keystone XL a potential disaster for the climate. Seventeen of the nation’s top climate scientists have written Congress and the President urging a rejection of the project. 

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 350.org, and the Sierra Club are all environmental groups that have helped lead the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. This February, more than 35,000 people, including two busloads of Harrisonburg climate activists, came to Washington, DC for the “Forward on Climate” rally urging President Obama to reject the project. Right now, environmental groups across the country are turning out supporters to protest Senators who voted in favor of Keystone XL.

Hosting groups for the march were local Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and the Shenandoah Valley Sierra Club chapter, as well as the regional group Chesapeake Climate Action Network and national groups 350.org and Kids vs. Global Warming/iMatter Campaign.

“My generation will see the massive costs of extreme climate change if Keystone XL is approved,” states Grant Serrels. “Norfolk is ranked second to New Orleans in vulnerability to major flooding from rising sea levels. Keystone XL will only weaken Virginia’s communities and economies and we’re here today to tell Senator Warner Virginians reject the pipeline and he should too.”

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