Keystone XL Pipeline Lessons Fuel Mass Anti-Extraction Rallies

Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb explains how relationships between unlikely allies are at the center of defeating Big Oil

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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. We’re in week two of the environmental political actions known as Break Free 2016, organized by the environmental group 350.org. These mass rallies are happening across the globe, to stop the extraction of fossil fuels in light of increase in global warming. 

One of their biggest fights is against the oil pipeline system, Keystone Pipeline, which runs from Canada to the United States. You may have thought that that fight was over, after President Obama rejected the fourth phase of the pipeline, known as Keystone XL. But the prior three phases are still running and our guest today is one of the leaders against the existing pipeline and other oil extraction projects.

Now joining us from Hastings, Nebraska, is Jane Kleeb. She is the Director of Bold Nebraska, a grassroots group that worked with farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Thank you so much for joining us Jane.

KLEEB: It’s good to be with you, thanks Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: So Jane, what do you think was key to your success when it came to protesting the Keystone XL pipeline?

KLEEB: You know, I think one of the biggest things was that we created an unlikely alliance of people fighting pipelines. Normally, when you talk about environmental issues, it’s only kind of the national environmental groups coupled then against the pipeline particular project. This time, farmers and ranchers along the Keystone XL route joined hands with traditional environmentalists, young people, communities of faith, but most importantly, from our perspective, tribal nations. So there was this unlikely alliance, we called the cowboy and Indian alliance, that really came together and brought a new face to not only fighting this particular pipeline, but brought a new face to the fight against climate change.

DESVARIEUX: Now let’s talk about these actions that have actually started last week and they’re ongoing this week. What specifically are you hoping to accomplish? And what lessons have you learned from your previous fight that you’re taking on and doing, in terms of fighting fossil fuel infrastructure projects today?

KLEEB: You know, one of the biggest things that we have found over the last seven years fighting Keystone, is that people want to do actions in the streets, in the communities, in order to continue to build bridges among unlikely alliances, but also to continue to show the public, and most importantly the fossil fuel companies, that we’re not backing down. That we now do see a future where we don’t have to rely completely on fossil fuels. And so the whole Break Free philosophy is that we need to show people what is possible, and that there’s people power behind this movement.

DESVARIEUX: Alright, can you speak specifically, what have you guys been doing?

KLEEB: Yes, and so this weekend in Nebraska, we actually had built, during the Keystone fight, a barn with solar panels and a wood turbine inside the Keystone XL route. Because the contracts that TransCanada forces on land owners says you can’t have any permanent structures in the pipeline route. So that was our way to show President Obama that the clean energy we want to see, as well as kind of a symbol of our rural communities. So this weekend we painted a protective sealer on that barn, but we are also in the middle of planting 100 trees all along the Keystone XL route, where the pipeline would have been. There’s a huge action happening in the Midwest, at a BP refinery that refines tar sands. That’s happening on May 15th, where folks from all over the Midwest are going to that refinery to try to shut it down, even if it’s for one day. Essentially, we’re trying to make the point that we’re not backing down from all these risky fossil fuel projects that are impacting our communities, our land, and our water.

DESVARIEUX: So you mentioned this alliance between ranchers, farmers, tribal nations, but of course, there are people, everyday people, that are on the side of TransCanada and their big oil industries. And they see this as sort of a benefit to them, specifically you often hear politicians, specifically on the right, talking about the jobs that it creates. And also, the argument that there are already 20,000 miles worth of pipelines in Nebraska, already even before Keystone existed. So, can you talk a little bit about that? What do you make of those arguments?

KLEEB: You know, we already do have enough pipeline infrastructure to meet the demands that America has for oil and gas. And so, one of the first things that we like to remind folks is that a lot of these pipelines that are being built right now, or trying to be proposed, are really for the export market, into countries like China and India that need this type of energy the most. So America is decreasing its dependency on fossil fuels, literally every year, and we’re moving in that right direction. And our beef is never with the workers. We obviously have no problems with construction workers and the pipe fitters and the welders. We know that they deserve good paying jobs in order to continue their middle-class families and raise their families just like my family does. But the point is we can’t keep on having those jobs that are building out fossil fuels that are then going to hurt our families in the future. And I live in an agricultural state in Nebraska, and we rely on reliable weather. Farmers and ranchers rely on reliable weather in order to have their livelihood. And if we continue to build fossil fuels, which then exasperate climate change, it is going to spell disaster, for not only Nebraska, but for the rest of our country as well.

DESVARIEUX: Jane, there’s also the argument that folks make, that pipelines are safer than the alternatives, which is rail and transporting oil via rail. And we’ve seen it happen in Canada, we’ve seen it happen here in the United States, with rail explosions and things of that nature. So what do you make of that argument? That it’s not all doom and gloom, as the environmentalists like to make it seem, and that pipelines are actually a safer alternative.

KLEEB: Pipelines and rail are both risky. Pipelines and rail both explode, they both leak oil into land and water, they both destroy not only lives, but livelihoods. There have been really bad pipeline spills of tar sands and traditional oil, both in North Dakota, South Dakota, and even in Nebraska, where farmers now […] essentially their land is completely destroyed. It’ll never get back to normal where they can plant crops. The fact is, when you look at the data, it is true that pipelines have fewer accidents than rail, but rails also spills less oil when accidents do happen. But from our perspective, both are not a good path forward for our communities. We have enough rail infrastructure. We have enough pipeline infrastructure. And so we’re saying it’s time to break free from creating even more fossil fuel infrastructure, and instead invest in a clean renewable future.

DESVARIEUX: Alright, Jane Kleeb joining us from Nebraska. Thank you so much for being with us.

KLEEB: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.