Downtown Harrisonburg Rally against the Keystone Pipeline

CAAV collaborated with 350.org, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Kids vs. Global Warming/ iMatter Campaign and other local groups to stage a public rally around Senator Warner’s visit to Harrisonburg on Wednesday, March 27. WHSV rally video

On March 22, 62 Senators, including Virginia’s Mark Warner, voted for a resolution supporting construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Sen. Warner chose to stand with the oil industry, rather than the thousands of Virginians that have worked so hard to stop this project. In CAAV chairperson Les Grady’s words, we urge Sen. Warner to: “Please think again about your decision and help us work to reduce CO2 emissions before we condemn our children and grandchildren to a much less hospitable world.”

The Daily News Record‘s Alex Rohr covered the downtown march and meeting with Warner’s chief of staff Luke Albee:

Time Is Melting Away

Pipeline Protesters Crash Visitor’s Party To ‘Hold Him Accountable’

Daily News Record   Posted: March 28, 2013

By ALEX ROHR

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., discusses environmental matters with protesters along Harrisonburg’s Main Street on Wednesday. The protest focused on the Keystone XL pipeline, but the 70 or so people who rallied during Warner’s visit to the Friendly City regarded it as just the centerpiece for broader environmental concerns. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., discusses environmental matters with protesters along Harrisonburg’s Main Street on Wednesday. The protest focused on the Keystone XL pipeline, but the 70 or so people who rallied during Warner’s visit to the Friendly City regarded it as just the centerpiece for broader environmental concerns. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

HARRISONBURG — A long row of signs, banners, flags and hand-held windmills wound around in circles on Main Street Wednesday afternoon, waving to get the attention of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who was meeting with entrepreneurs in downtown Harrisonburg.

“We’re here today to make sure that we can reach Warner and hold him accountable for his actions supporting the pipeline,” said Emily Heffling, Virginia campus organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

By actions, Heffling meant Warner’s vote on a nonbinding budget amendment made by the Senate on Friday expressing support for the Keystone XL pipeline. The resolution passed easily on a 62-37 vote.

The proposed $5.3 billion pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through America’s heartland to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Hey, Senator Warner, the planet’s getting warmer,” the protesters chanted as they marched, one dressed in a polar bear costume with a sign that read “Time is melting away.”

When a coalition of 22 Virginia residents visited Warner’s office to lobby against the pipeline before the vote, they were told they’d receive a response within a week, said Heffling and Kara Dodson of 350.org.

This statement was not confirmed with Warner’s representatives.

“He didn’t [respond] …  so we’re back,” Heffling said. “And we’ll keep coming back until he rejects the pipeline.”

And they came back with muscle.

Environmental protesters prepare to march along Main Street as they make their statement about Sen. Mark Warner’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Warner, D-Va., was in Harrisonburg for an entrepreneurs’ roundtable.

Environmental protesters prepare to march along Main Street as they make their statement about Sen. Mark Warner’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Warner, D-Va., was in Harrisonburg for an entrepreneurs’ roundtable.

“The Keystone pipeline’s got to go. Hey, hey, ho, ho,” the chanting continued.

About 70 protesters, including members of climate action groups Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club, 350.org and Kids vs. Global Warming/iMatter Campaign, didn’t leave until they got a response from their senator.

When Warner pulled up in front of Ruby’s, the basement lounge below Clementine Restaurant on South Main Street, he talked with marchers for a few moments before going to the scheduled business roundtable with local entrepreneurs.

Warner said he voted for the amendment because of the results of an updated U.S. State Department environmental impact statement, which concluded the pipeline’s effect would be minimal because the oil sands would be developed with or without Keystone.

President Barack Obama denied a permit for  the pipeline’s construction in  January 2012, citing environmental concerns over the pipeline’s proposed route. He did sign an executive order allowing the southern portion of the pipe from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast to be built.

While Warner didn’t stay long to chat, he sent his chief of staff, Luke Albee, to talk with the protesters across the street at Massanutten Regional Library.

“I am your response,” said Albee, who listened to the concerns of a room filled with residents of Harrisonburg, Broadway, Mount Crawford, Penn Laird, Dayton, Grottoes, Bridgewater, Keezletown, Charlottesville and Richmond.

At their own roundtable discussion, albeit last-minute, protesters said their march was not just about this particular stretch of proposed oil pipeline, but about switching to sustainable forms of energy, including wind and solar.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is important for what it is and what it represents,” said Les Grady, part of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s organizing body. “We are so addicted to fossil fuels that there are no limits to where we will go in getting them.”

Grady explained that the tar sands oil is particularly unfriendly to the environment because of the energy required to make it usable.

One concern that protesters practically shouted at Albee was their accusation that the State Department study was performed by a business with financial ties to TransCanada, the company wanting to build the pipeline.

“It’s like the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Herbet Fitzel of Chester, who came to Harrisonburg as a volunteer with 350.org.

In the wake of widespread social media protests against the pipeline, some people at Wednesday’s march said it was important to show up physically.

“Anybody can push a button,” said Annie Long who works at Little Grill. “I wanted to be in a physical body here.”

“You elect people and if you don’t push what you elected them for, then they have their own agenda,” said Elise Benusa, a JMU senior in the international studies program. “You can’t just sit back, complain about it, and not get your hands dirty.”

Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or arohr@dnronline.com

View rally photos by CAAV steering committee member Pete Mahoney in this Picasa web album.

Warner Rally, March 27, 2013
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