Faith communities continue drive to stop oil pipeline project

About 3,000 people joined a rally to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Witnesses lined up early this morning at the State Deptartment to offer their views on a $7 billion pipeline project designed to carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

On one side were representatives of the energy industry who say the project would produce thousands of construction jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. The other included religious and environmental groups concerned that extracting oil in Canada’s northern boreal forest will accelerate climate change and harm the livelihood of First Nations people.

The project has raised sensitivities in both the U.S. and Canada as debates have revolved around the benefits of economic development and  jobs in a deep recession and the long-term impact on climate change.

Because the 1,700-mile pipeline crosses an international border, the State Department is charged with recommending to President Barack Obama whether to sign off on a permit for the project or not. In August, the State Department cleared the way for construction in a report that found the project poses no serious threat to the environment and will enhance national security.

Obama’s decision is due by the end of the year. The White House has declined to say how he is leaning.

The hearing in Washington today was the last. Earlier hearings took place in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, states through which the pipeline would pass.

A rally outside of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center near the White House took place as the hearing continued inside.

About 3,000 people cheered calls for stopping the project.

Bill McKibben, author, educator and environmental activist, credited the faith community for playing a growing role in the debate on the project.

In a brief interview after the rally, he told Catholic News Service that involvement by Catholics in the envirinomental movement is satisfying and he credited the Vatican for talking about the consequences of global warming.

“The Vatican has said some of the right things in recent years about climate change and it’s been nice to see,” he said. “It hasn’t been a very active thing for Catholics, but I think that’s changing.”

While the rally continued, Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski, parochial vicar of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., was waiting to testify at the hearing. His testimony can be seen here and fast forward to the 1:45:00 mark.

Father Orzechowski told CNS he opposes the pipeline on moral grounds and that his faith and the words of Pope Benedict XVI are leading him to act.

“The science is clear that we must have drastic reductions in greenhouse gases,” said Father Orzechowski, representing the Franciscan Action Network, which addresses justice issues. “We have to do it quick in order to avert catastrophic consequences.”

Father Orzechowski was one of more than 1,200 people arrested outside of the White House for protesting the pipeline in a series of actions in late August and early September.

He also was one of six religious representatives who met Oct. 6 with Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. Kathy McNeely, a staff member of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, was the other Catholic representative at the meeting.

Both stressed to Jones that the U.S. must invest in sustainable energy sources as a job creator rather than promote the continued use of fossil fuels.

Michelle Knight, of the Columban Fathers’ Center for Advocacy and Outreach, also was in line early hoping to testify. She told CNS she planned to address concerns about the dangers any potential oil spill would pose to the shallow Ogallala Aquifer, which provides irrigation and drinking
water to 2 million people in the central U.S.

“We’re all part of God’s creation and we need to protect God’s creation,” she said.

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8 Responses to Faith communities continue drive to stop oil pipeline project

  1. TheSaleBoat says:

    Yeah, oppose the pipeline and continue to empower muslim countries who supply our oil? Liberals… sigh… btw our Pope did not say anything concerning this pipeline.

  2. The science of global warming has not by any means been settled. See the list of credible scientists who dispute it here:
    Many Catholics are not on the bandwagon to stop projects that will decrease our dependence on oil from the Middle East. The Pope calls for honest science and responsible policies and has not ruled on believing in global warming absent a solid scientific base as truth as a matter of faith. There is room in the discussion for Catholics on all sides. I would refer the reader to this article about what the Vatican has said:

  3. J. Bob says:

    Great logic.

    Stop the pipeline to the US, and let the other pipeline to the west coast be built. And guess where that oil will go, hint China for starters.

    One has to wonder where some of the people quoted were educated.

  4. tom glennon says:

    let us continue to develop solar power
    And let us continue to promote wind turbine power.

    These sources of power do not offer the prospect
    of leaking pipelines; which can ruin our ground water.

  5. J. Bob says:

    nor do solar & wind provide heat or light, on a 20 below, still night in Jan.

  6. High priced natural resources often lead to war. People do not fight for industry, because it is likely to be destroyed in the process. The also will not fight for information or culture, the scientist who will develop a cure for the cancer that will kill you might die in the war. Tariffs maybe used against industrial competitors and intellectual piracy is used with intellectual property, but traditional wars are fought for natural resources. Allowing natural resources to become too expensive may result in war, which maybe very bad for the ecology, and many other things we value as followers of Christ.

  7. Jack Hartjes says:

    Quidkat, the petition you refer to is statistically worthless. It’s called the “Global Warming Petition Project” or the “Oregon Petition.” It was accompanied by an article designed to look like it was from the National Academy of Science full of inaccuracies and half-truths and repudiated by the NAS. Many of the signatories were “experts” in fields that had nothing to do with global warming. A signer could request additional copies of the petition to send to acquaintances who would likely agree with the petition–hardly a scientific way of guaging the opinion of the scientific community.

    Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition —- one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages.

  8. Rick Charles says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. I think oil pipe line should be stopped along with I would like to share important information about global community communications alliance is a community based in spirituality with a focus of servitude. The community has a number of supporting organizations that provide services and one of these organizations is the Soulistic Medical Institute. They are really good.

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