MN obama oil train protest

Energy is high in Minnesota despite the bitter cold temperatures as we feel the climate movement swell with folks taking local action to stand up for a livable future. Wednesday we were reminded of the power of showing up to visually represent the kind of world we are working for — A world free of extreme fossil fuel extraction, transportation and consumption through projects like Keystone XL and the Alberta Clipper. A world investing and putting into practice behaviors and technologies reliant on clean energy and conservation. A world where we are celebrating and prioritizing our collective values of respect, creativity and love.

And there’s a lot going on! President Obama’s visit to St. Paul this week came with the customary lack of advance notice, setting off an organized but fast-paced scramble to meet him at Union Depot with our message. The security plans for the day kept us from staging a demonstration indoors so we bundled up and captured the energy of the moment with chants, songs, colorful props and pure determination to reach out and invite the attendees and the media to wake up to the realities of tar sands oil and to join us in opposing its expansion in the name of climate change.

Although the Keystone XL fight has grabbed most of the national spotlight, Minnesota is facing tar sands issues in a big way — in fact, we have a virtual superhighway of tar sands oil that stretches across the northern part of the state. Enbridge, the giant Canadian pipeline company, brings 1.8 million barrels per day of tar sands into Minnesota, more than almost any other state. Enbridge wants to expand a pipeline called the Alberta Clipper to carry almost as much tar sands oil as Keystone XL would carry. MN350 has contested this expansion at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and we’re currently engaged in a massive grassroots and legal effort to build a movement capable of ensuring this increase doesn’t happen and the oil is kept in the ground.

Pipeline companies like to say that if the oil doesn’t move by pipeline, it will move by rail. That’s why we’re so excited about one of our newest initiatives, a state-level legislative campaign driven by MN350 citizen volunteers in partnership with legislative leaders. Our bill is called the Oil Spill Defense Act and it will bring transparency and higher standards to disaster response plans while holding crude oil carriers financially accountable to the cost and risk of all oil flowing through the state by pipeline, rail, truck, or tanker. Our new sign for the demonstration said “Passenger Trains, Not Oil Trains,” reflecting our vision of a world that gives folks affordable, efficient transportation options that reduce our reliance on extreme fossil fuels; a world that draws the line on projects that increase these 100-car tanker trains and higher pressured pipelines bringing local danger and global climate catastrophe.

Obama hasn’t heard the last from us, either: over 65 college students from across the state will join hundreds of other students at the XL DISSENT action in Washington, DC this weekend to show the world the severity of the Keystone XL decision and their deep commitment to holding our political leaders accountable to addressing climate change. Simultaneously, MN350 youth leaders will embark on a tar sands speaking tour to connect with youth in communities along the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline route in the northern part of the state. Minnesotans are standing up with the collective energy of the global movement in powerful and creative ways to protect our people, our place and our climate this week, and every moment to come.

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