February 13, 2013, 3:20 pm5 Comments
By JOHN M. BRODER
Getty Images Daryl Hannah was among those handcuffed and arrested on Wednesday in Lafayette Park in Washington during a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline project.
Four dozen environmental activists succeeded in getting themselves arrested outside the White House on Wednesday afternoon to draw attention to their demand that President Obama reject construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Julian Bond, the civil rights leader; Daryl Hannah, the actress; Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance; Bill McKibben, a longtime climate change campaigner; and James Hansen, a prominent climate scientist, were the celebrity faces of the arrestees, who zip-tied themselves to the White House fence and defied police orders to leave.
They and about 40 others were hauled away in police vans, charged with failure to disperse and obey lawful orders, and released on $100 bond each.
The Sierra Club, whose board authorized participation in acts of civil disobedience for the first time in the group’s 120-year history, organized the protest. Mr. Brune said that Mr. Obama had made forceful and eloquent statements about the need to address climate change, including remarks in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, and now needed to stop the pipeline to signal his seriousness.
“It’s awfully difficult to reconcile a concerted attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the massive development of the dirtiest oil on the planet,” Mr. Brune said before his arrest.
As the protest was under way, Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute and Sean McGarvey president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Building and Construction Trades Department, were on a conference call telling reporters that Mr. Obama should approve the pipeline. “It will create thousands of jobs, expand access to secure supplies of Canadian crude oil and represent an investment in America’s economy and energy future consistent with president’s vision in the State of the Union last night,” Mr. Gerard said.
He said that the petroleum lobby, unions and other pipeline supporters planned a nationwide campaign in favor of the project. Pipeline opponents, too, are preparing a number of other public protests, including one in Washington on Sunday.
Environmental advocates have mounted a number of actions calling on Mr. Obama to veto the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry heavy crude from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border; Mr. Obama has said that he will make the ultimate decision on whether it gets built.
The State Department is preparing a new environmental impact statement and has said it will be prepared to make a recommendation on the pipeline this spring. The White House has given no indication what Mr. Obama intends to do.
Mr. Bond, the former executive director of the N.A.A.C.P., dressed in an elegant camel-hair topcoat, said he had never spoken out against the Keystone project before Wednesday’s protest. “I’m joining this group of people because it’s the cause of the hour, or of the moment, at least,” he said.
He said that the N.A.A.C.P. had been involved in environmental causes for decades but would like to see the environmental movement become more diverse and more aggressive. “And I want it to win,” he said.
An earlier version of this post misstated Michael Brune’s position at the Sierra Club. He is executive director, not president.