By Jess Scanlon
Seven Rider students were a part of the 12,000 people who voiced their disapproval of the proposed TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline outside the White House on Nov. 6.
The rally drew more than double its initial estimate of 5,000 people, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It was intended to protest the tentative plan for a pipeline to run from Alberta, Canada to Texas.
Originally, the pipeline was to pass through the Midwest’s Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a major source of drinking water, according to The New York Times. In light of the rally, the U.S. Department of State is exploring alternative routes to avoid the Sand Hills region, said a news release from TransCanada.
Jillian Spratt said that attending the rally was the experience of a lifetime.
“We were surrounded by thousands and thousands of people all there for the same purpose and all sharing the same beliefs,” Spratt said. “The energy was intense and it was so easy to be swept away into the chants and the clapping.”
Nina Joffe, a senior biology major and member of Sustainable Rider, said that the rally had a clear impact on the State’s decision.
“[A crowd of] 12,000 people is a huge assembly of people for a protest,” Joffe said. “Obama definitely heard our message loud and clear. We expect [Obama] to protect our best interests and there’s no denying that clean air and clean water, vital components of life, would be considered as such.”
Melissa Greenberg, sustainability coordination manager, said that although she was unable to attend the event, she was excited to see students participate in the rally.
“I ended up watching the live feed on the Internet from home,” Greenberg said. “It was fantastic.”
Lauren Clabaugh, an eco-rep who first proposed going to the rally, said that the original route would have been a widespread detriment to the environment.
“What makes [the pipeline] so controversial is the adverse effects it would have on the environment,” she said. “It could ruin people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Joffe said that the contamination of the soil and water in that region would be a possibility because of TransCanada’s design plans. She also said that she was concerned about the potential damage to the Ogallala Aquifer and the wetlands caused by the pipeline’s route to the Gulf of Mexico.
“There are many negative impacts associated with the Keystone XL pipeline such as air and water pollution,” Joffe said.
Greenberg said that she encouraged the interested eco-reps and Sustainable Rider members to attend the rally. She and the students had the same opinion about the original pipeline — it would do more harm than good.
TransCanada claimed the positives of the project included bringing jobs to the United States and lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil. A news release announced that the company “is poised to put 20,000 Americans to work to construct the pipeline.”
However, this number is contradictory to the findings of Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, which found that the jobs created by the project would be primarily temporary and produce little job growth in the most optimistic projections.
Yuliya Labko, a senior biology major and member of Sustainable Rider, said that the negatives of the project outweigh the positives.
“Keystone XL is an export pipeline and Gulf Cost plant intended to refine cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products,” Labko said. “It is not safe, does not end our dependence on oil and will not put people to work. This pipeline will not create meaningful, safe and long-term jobs for anyone except the oil executives.”
Clabaugh said the United States should focus on creating more environmentally friendly jobs.
“Most of the jobs created would be minimum wage, temporary construction jobs,” she said. “We should be looking for sustainable jobs, not just to sustain the environment but to sustain the job market and economy.”