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L.A. protesters join campaign against Keystone oil pipeline

February 17, 2013 |  7:08 pm

Hundreds of protesters marched on Los Angeles City Hall on Sunday as part of a nationwide demonstration designed to pressure President Obama into rejecting a Canadian pipeline that would bring oil into the United States.

The local demonstration -- led by environmentalist and actor Ed Begley Jr., Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar -- was focused on rejecting TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline as a first step in taking action on climate change.

“We’ve seen climate change coming for a long time, but now it’s here, and it’s getting worse faster and causing greater harm than we ever expected,” Waxman said. “There is simply no more important fight for the future of our children and grandchildren.”

A coalition of 90 groups, led by Tar Sands Action Southern California and the Sierra Club, organized the march to coincide with a larger group of demonstrators who converged on the White House.

“You cannot occupy the White House, but you can surround it,” said Bill McKibben, an environmental writer who founded 350.org, whose name alludes to keeping greenhouse gases at less than 350 parts per million. That’s the level scientists believe to be a dangerous tipping point for the planet.

McKibben and hundreds of others have been arrested in protesting the pipeline, which would carry what he considers some of the “dirtiest oil on the planet.” The oil from Alberta, Canada’s tar sand deposits is bitumen, which is heavier, more viscous and contains more impurities, and thus takes more energy to extract and process.

The demonstrations and arrests are beginning to emerge as the largest green civil disobedience campaign in a generation. The target, for the moment, is the proposed construction of the 1,600-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to U.S. refineries that ring the Gulf of Mexico.

Locally, clean energy supporters also rallied behind a recent initiative by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to wean itself from two out-of-state coal plants that now supply nearly 40% of the city’s electricity.

“That will help reduce our city’s climate change pollution footprint,” said Aura Vasquez of the Sierra Club. “But the time has come for the federal government to take strong action too, before it’s too late and global warming spirals out of control.”

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-- Kenneth R. Weiss

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