By Jack Detsch
Police arrested 28 environmental activists blockading San Francisco’s Federal Building Wednesday. The group was protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of public comment related to the State Department’s final environmental report on the project.
The barricade lasted for just over an hour, preventing dozens of employees from entering. One frustrated woman attempted to wrestle through the line, yelling “Get out of my way,” but was unable to break through.
The hostile response from federal workers upset some demonstrators. “They’re not really receptive to why we’re here” said Iris, a protest organizer, from behind a sequined red bandana. “We’re here for them. They just don’t know it.”
The State Department’s new report concludes the pipeline would not adversely impact climate change, President Obama’s primary criterion for approval of the project.
Bay Area environmentalists remain hopeful. Wednesday’s protests followed a Monday vigil outside the State Department’s San Francisco office. Deirdre Smith, one of the organizers of the protest, thinks that the pipeline will be a referendum in the fight for clean energy.
“I think the Keystone is the symbol of a larger fight. I will put my body on the line to shift the paradigm that we need fossil fuels to exist.”
A recent survey shows protesters have an uphill climb in successfully pushing their cause. Fifty-seven percent of Americans still favor the project, according to a USA Today poll released last week. On the other hand, Smith hopes that the demonstrators will inspire some of the 77,045 activists who have signed Credo Action’s Pledge of Resistance to join in civil disobedience efforts to stop Keystone.
“We hope that the people who want to fight this pipeline but aren’t quite sure what they can do will go to their local federal buildings and block entrances.”
Locally, environmentalists fear that several energy facilities in the Bay Area, including the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, Valero’s Benicia refinery, and the planned WestPac shipping facility in Pittsburg, could be destinations for tar sands oil when their rail facilities come online.
The State Department will continue to take public comments on the report through March 7. President Obama has 90 days to decide whether to approve the project.