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Oklahoma Sierra Club to hold GreenWalk against toxic tar sands

The Sierra Club protested last March when President Barack Obama came to Oklahoma to announce he was fast tracking the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Photo provided.
The Sierra Club protested last March when President Barack Obama came to Oklahoma to announce he was fast tracking the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

The Oklahoma Sierra Club has set the date for an event called “GreenWalk Against Toxic Tar Sands.” The group is asking Oklahomans to join them on Saturday, Sept. 21, at a “lawful and peaceful gathering,” focusing on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Participants will meet at 9 a.m. at Foster Park Pavilion in Stroud, OK, for a briefing by tar sands experts and activists. Speakers from Arkansas will discuss how the recent Mayflower tar sands leak has affected their lives.

Following the meeting, attendees are invited to walk or drive to the location where the Keystone XL Pipeline crosses Route 66 just east of Stroud. A photo will be taken of each participant with the KXL in the background along with a personal printed message for the President.

President Barack Obama recently said that the pipeline should only be approved if “it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Organizers say this event gives participants a chance to tell the President what they think about toxic tar sands in Oklahoma.

In March 2013, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada burst, sending more than 12,000 barrels of oil down residential streets in Mayflower, AR. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorized the spill as “major.”

In a new report titled, “Fail,” the Sierra Club, Oil Change International and other environmental groups assert that, if built, the pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas would increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 181 million metric tons each year.

This equals the yearly equivalent of building 51 new coal-fired power plants or putting 37 million additional cars on the road – when factoring the combustion, transportation and processing of the crude and its byproducts, the report states.

Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter Director David Ocamb said, “The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club is gathering on Sept. 21 to stand up against toxic tar sands to protect our water, land and very way of life.

“We all have seen the effects of toxic tar sands with the Mayflower leak in Arkansas. An entire community was devastated by the leak and the Arkansas Attorney General is fighting with the company to attempt to force them to take responsibility to make it right.”

Recently reported in the Tulsa World, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm made the following statement about the Keystone XL Pipeline, “It’s not critical any longer. They just waited too long. The industry is very innovative, and it finds other ways of doing it and other routes.”

The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit to stop Enbridge’s Flanagan South tar sands pipeline from Illinois to Cushing, Oklahoma.

Barbara VanHanken, Oklahoma Sierra Club executive committee member said, “The GreenWalk will carry the message that Oklahomans are speaking loud and clear that we do nor want any Tar Sands Pipeline including the KXL and the Flanagon South to travel across Oklahoma farms and ranch lands or near our communities.”

The existing Keystone Pipeline runs from oil sand fields in Alberta, Canada into the U.S., ending in Cushing, OK.

The 1,700 new miles of the KXL pipeline expansion would connect Cushing with the Gulf Coast of Texas. It would include a new section from Alberta to Kansas, passing through the Bakken Shale region of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

The scientific name for tar sand is bitumen, a mixture of clay, sand, water, and oil that can be refined into usable oil.
TransCanada, a Canadian energy company, is proposing the multi-billion dollar project.

The TransCanada website states, “the Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest and most advanced pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans.”

Ocamb said, “Toxic tar sands will be a significant focus for the Sierra Club this fall. Oklahoma’s citizens deserve the right to have safe drinking water as well as streams and lakes to recreate and fish. We must stop this expansion of tar sands pipelines in our state to secure Oklahoma’s future.”

The Sierra Club has reserved the Foster Park Pavilion, with a playground, skateboard area, fishing pond and picnic facilities, until 5 p.m. Attendees can backpack their lunch or dine in town. Participants can also join a side trip to the StableRidge Winery at 1916 W. Highway 66 in Stroud.

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