Why they're upset: Just when America had thought that the specter of an environmentally destructive, 1,700 mile crude pipeline from Alberta's tar sands to the Gulf Coast had been exorcised from the Senate agenda, the GOP is now trying to piggyback Keystone XL pipeline approval onto a federal highway bill. This wouldn't be the first time Republicans have attempted sneaking the pipeline into other pending legislation. In December, the GOP tacked a deadline on the pipeline decision onto an extension of the payroll tax cut. At the time, Senator Schumer didn't seem too stressed about it, saying the pipeline concession was like giving Republicans "sleeves off a vest." Sure enough, after the bill passed, Obama rejected the pipeline proposal ahead of its deadline. But with news of the new amendment, environmentalist groups want to make sure that the vest stays a vest, and doesn't grow into a Keystone-friendly sweater.
"[Schumer] hasn't made a public statement for or against the pipeline, and this is a really critical situation, so we need to know," Belinda Rodriguez, an organizer with the New York faction of the anti-Keystone Tar Sands Action Group , said. "As a Democrat and believer in climate change, he should be someone taking leadership against this."
The Tar Sands Action Group is one of the most vocal environmentalist organizations in the city today. Last October, they delivered 500 anti-Keystone and anti-fracking letters to Obama's New York campaign office, and in November took part in a 12,000 person demonstration encircling the White House. Climate scientist James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who was one of 1,253 arrested at a pipeline sit-in protest in front of the White House last August, has called Keystone XL "game over" for the climate. Crude bitumen from the Albertan tar sands, the third-largest known crude oil reserve in the world, is one of the dirtiest fuels to burn, "equivalent to burning coal in your automobile," Hansen told SolveClimate News last year. "We simply cannot be that stupid if we want to preserve a planet for our children and grandchildren," he said.
Tar Sands Action joined author and environmentalist Bill McKibben's activist group 350.org earlier this year as part of its US Climate Action Team. Starting at noon on Monday, 350.org will be trying to send half a million emails to the Senate, "the most concentrated burst of environmental advocacy this millennium," McKibben wrote in the Huffington Post. "We'll know if it works if the Democrats who control the chamber do one simple thing: back their president."
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