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Elizabeth Shope’s Blog

Thousands Draw the Line, call on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Elizabeth Shope

Posted September 23, 2013

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This weekend, thousands of people came together in more than 200 Draw the Line events across 49 states to call on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The overall event was organized by, with partners including NRDC signed on, and local activists and groups taking the lead on organizing individual events in their communities. Some events focused on the impacts of rising sea levels and storm surges, with participants drawing physical lines to represent water levels we’re likely to see in the future if we proceed with dangerous, climate-wrecking projects like Keystone XL. Other events covered issues in addition to Keystone XL such as divestment, fracking, offshore drilling, and (in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) the proposed Portland-Montreal Pipeline reversal that would allow tar sands oil to be sent to Portland, Maine. And in perhaps the most inspired event of the day, Nebraska ranchers, farmers and pipeline fighters erected a solar powered barn in the middle of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route – drawing a physical line in the sand(hills), and showing the better path forward towards a clean energy future.

Draw the Line Nebraska Solar Barn Credit Mary Anne Andrei Bold Nebraska Cropped.jpgNebraska Solar Barn under Construction. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska

NRDC staff attended a number of events across the country – including in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Washington, DC, and New York City.

NRDC Climate Riders Ready to roll after Drawing the Line on KXL in NYC Cropped.jpg

I saw off the Climate Riders in New York City – including the NRDC Climate Ride team – as they paused to pose for a Draw the Line photo op at the South Street Seaport op before setting off on the 5-day, 320 mile ride from New York City to Washington, DC. The climate riders have each raised at least $2400 for environmental and bicycle advocacy organizations.


Team NRDC ready to ride.

Draw the Line Climate Riders Draw the Line on KXL in NYC Credit Elizabeth Shope NRDC Cropped.jpg

Climate Riders call on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline before setting off on 320-mile ride to Washington, DC.

NRDC Youth Engagement Coordinator Robert Friedman attended the main New York City Draw the Line event and reported:

150 activists of all ages gathered in Battery Park in downtown Manhattan, an area that was totally submerged during Hurricane Sandy, to Draw The Line on Keystone XL.  In view of the Statue of Liberty, we protested the extreme energy extraction that is ravaging communities across the world, whether it’s fracking in the Marcellus shale or tar sands from Alberta, Canada.  Per police department policy, amplification devices weren’t allowed so we had to rely on the peoples’ microphone, with participants amplifying the voices of speakers.  Through the peoples’ mic, Josh Fox, director of Gasland, said, “We’re gonna stop Keystone XL. We’re gonna stop fracking in New York State. We’re gonna provide an example of a strong citizen movement fighting off the most powerful corporations in history – and win.”  We even called the Whitehouse to demand that the President say no to Keystone XL.  As a mock pipeline with the head of a serpent lead the way, we walked up Wall Street and then finally to the South Street Seaport, where we heard stories from the frontlines of the fight for climate justice.  As we marched up the streets of lower Manhattan, mobile paint crews drew temporary lines on the sidewalk and on the sides of buildings to show how high the storm surge was during Sandy.  It was surreal to recall how most of lower Manhattan was completely flooded by water just under a year ago.

Draw the Line NYC Josh Fox speaks about KXL and natural gas fights in NYC Credit 350.jpg

Josh Fox speaks at New York City Draw The Line event about Keystone XL and Natural Gas fights. Photo from Draw the Line photo set on Flicker.  

NRDC legal fellow Nicholas Jimenez attended the San Francisco Draw the Line event and reported:

Pouring rain didn’t deter an impressive number of organizers, activists, volunteers, and concerned residents from showing up at the beautiful LEED Platinum Eco Center at San Francisco’s Heron’s Head Park today to draw a line in the (wet) sand against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The location was well chosen; as more than one speaker reminded us, the neighborhoods of Hunters Point and Treasure Island are not only at high risk from sea level rise but are near toxic and radioactive waste sites that could quickly release their unfortunate legacies if inundated, putting citizens at risk. Members of Greenaction, 350 Bay Area, Treasure Island Health Network (TIHN), Hunters View Mothers Committee, SF Green Party, Our City, and NRDC, as well as residents of the Bayview Hunters Point and Treasure Island neighborhoods held caution tape aloft at 6.5’ to represent the depth of the mess that Keystone XL would hasten and ensure.

Draw the Line San Francisco Photo Credit Nicholas Jimenez NRDC Cropped.jpg

San Francisco Draw the Line event. Photo Credit: Nicholas Jimenez/NRDC

NRDC's Pierre Delforge also volunteers for his local 350 chapter and organized the event in Palo Alto. He reports:

The first rain in 6 months didn’t deter 70 activists from gathering at Greer Park in Palo Alto and marching down Oregon Expressway. In addition to many spirited signs and banners, marchers held a 300-ft long piece of blue tape symbolizing rising sea levels. Ironically, the rain caused some localized street flooding in the area, a precursor of things to come as Greer Park, its neighborhood and its prime real estate are projected to be underwater within 30-40 years. The event was organized by 350 Silicon Valley and gathered participants from Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby and NRDC. 

A group of NRDC staff attended the DC Draw the Line event which several NRDCers had helped to organize and which featured NRDC’s own Ben Longstreth and Elise Shulman as speakers. The event included speeches calling for the DC Council to divest from fossil fuels, and rallying cries to stop Keystone XL, stop climate change, and thanking President Obama for the carbon pollution standards announced on Friday. NRDC Program Assistant Corinne Hanson writes:

Activists stretched from one corner of Lincoln Park in Washington, DC to the other, linking arms and chanting “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama.”  150 protestors made posters, discussed a photo display showing how sea level-rise would impact the city and listened to speakers call for action here in DC. We closed out the event with a surprise speech from Reverend Yearwood, Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus who had the crowd raise their fists and yell “divest” in unison, calling for the nation’s capital to act as a leader in fighting climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Draw the Line Washington DC Photo Credit Ed Carley Cropped.jpg

Washington, DC Draw the Line Event. Photo Credit: Ed Carley

President Obama has recently spoken several times about Keystone XL, acknowledging that it’s not a major jobs creator and won’t provide energy security or lower gas prices for the United States. He also set a climate test on the pipeline, saying that “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest.  And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The events this weekend linked the extreme climate events of the last few years to the climate effects that will be felt if we move forward with the tar sands expansion that would be necessary if Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines are approved.  And we have written in detail about how Keystone XL is a diver of tar sands expansion and climate change. President Obama needs to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, as it is not in the interest of our nation or our climate. If you didn’t make it out to one of the events this weekend, or even if you did, you can add your voice to those of Robert Redford, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Van Jones, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and others who demand clean power and who are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline at

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