Keystone Protest Held; URI Divestment Possible
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Activists from the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of South County held a recent vigil to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Dale Carlia Corner in Wakefield is nowhere near Washington, D.C., nor is it in the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension. But activists at a recent vigil let motorists know of their intent to keep Canadian tar sands oil out of the pipeline and in the ground. They specifically urged President Obama to put a stop to the Keystone XL pipeline project. He’s expected to announce a decision sometime this summer.
If built, the pipeline will deliver 800,000 gallons of the high-carbon, low-quality fuel daily from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. There is concern that the pipeline poses a health risk by crossing the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground reservoirs of fresh water.
“Tar sands oil is highly toxic and there have been too many pipeline leaks already that have wreaked havoc on communities,” said activist Pamela Brightman of East Providence.
An environmental impact study released by the State Department in January said the pipeline wouldn't have a significant impact on climate change. Pipeline opponents say the report has several flaws, including that it wrongly assumes the tar sands oil will come out of the ground whether the pipeline is expanded or not.
“We should keep these vigils going until we win the battle for the Earth,” said Peter Nightingale, a University of Rhode Island physics professor and a founding member of Fossil Free Rhode Island. The group organized the Feb. 24 event with the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of South County.
A 30-day public comment period on the proposed pipeline extension ends March 7.
Will URI divest?
Last November, Nightingale and members of Divest URI met with Michael Smith, president of the URI Foundation, about divesting fossil-fuel investments from the $100 million fund. Nightingale and student Thomas-Anthony Viscione said they were told they would receive an answer in December, but have yet to hear back from Smith. A spokesman from Smith’s office said the foundation expects to issue a response soon, perhaps by March 7.
Divestment campaigns are also ongoing at Brown University and at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Last June, Providence become one of the first capital cities in the county to divest from fossil fuels.