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Students Protest Oil Pipeline

By Jose A. DelReal, Crimson Staff Writer

Hoping to highlight opposition to a proposed oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf Coast, protesters gathered outside of Kirkland House Tuesday afternoon before the arrival of Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager.

About 50 protesters assembled in opposition to the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which is being considered by the Obama Administration. Chanting “Obama Stop the Pipeline—Yes he can!” the protesters demonstrated growing liberal unrest about the President’s environmental initiatives.

“We decided we wanted to make some noise to show Obama that people are angry about this issue,” said Sachi M. Oshima ’13, co-chair of the Harvard Environmental Action Committee. “He has the executive power to prevent this—it doesn’t have to go through Congress. It is solely his decision.”

The on-campus protest follows several demonstrations at the end of August conducted by national environmental advocacy organizations, during which more than 1,200 protesters were arrested outside of the White House.

“We wanted to bring the protest here, and bring awareness to campus,” Oshima said.

The protesters, largely comprising Harvard undergraduates, stood in Kirkland’s courtyard waiting for Messina. As he passed by the crowd, heading for the Kirkland Junior Common Room, protesters chanted, “What do we want? Renewable energy! When do we want it? Now!”

Messina came to Harvard for an off-the-record discussion with students as part of the ongoing “Conversations with Kirkland.”

The protest was organized in large part by the EAC, but members of the EAC tapped into national activist networks for help.

“We decided that we wanted to show solidarity with some of the other protests going on around the country by doing a smaller scale protest here on campus,” said Rebecca J. Cohen ’12.

If approved by Obama, the Keystone XL pipeline would span 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to Gulf Coast delivery points in Texas and Oklahoma. In all, the pipeline would run through Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, before final delivery points in both Oklahoma and Texas. The project is undergoing a 90-day review period during which the Department of State will accept public comments on the matter. According to a Department of State Executive Report, a final decision is expected in December of this year.

The pipeline project request was first filed by TransCanada in September 2008, before then-candidate Obama’s election.

As the White House gears up for the 2012 election, demonstrations, like the one in Kirkland House, signal the potential challenge Obama may face when trying to motivate his base.

Student protesters expressed apprehension about supporting Obama Tuesday.

“I’m undecided. I think I do, but there’s a possibility I could go Green Party or with another candidate if Obama doesn’t follow through with his environmental standards,” said Canyon S. Woodward ’15.

Fourteen of the Kirkland House protesters were arrested outside of the White House last month. Craig S. Altemose, a 2010 joint degree graduate from Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School, was one of the demonstrators arrested.

“We wanted to make Obama realize that if he wants our votes, he probably has them. But if he wants our cash and our volunteer hours—if he wants to actually have people believe in him and be passionate supporters—then he needs to stop this pipeline,” he said.

Oshima echoed his comments.

“Our protest is to hold Obama accountable to the environmental goals he set forth in his inauguration speech and when he was campaigning in ’08,” she said. “Our goal right now is to tell Obama is that as young voters, we want to support him, but we don’t know if we can.”

—Staff writer Jose A. DelReal can be reached at jdelreal@college.harvard.edu.

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