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Louisville Activists Urge Obama to Reject Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

As the U.S. Senate begins debating the Keystone XL pipeline bill, activists across the country are planning protests.

The proposed pipeline would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico. Parts of it are already complete, but the section at stake would reach from Alberta and cross through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

On Friday, the House of Representatives voted to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline.This wasn’t surprising; the Republican-controlled body has passed similar bills 10 times in the past three years. But now the Senate is also controlled by Republicans, and new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Also on Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the pipeline’s route through Nebraska.President Obama had previously promised to veto the measure if it makes it to his desk, but part of the president’s justification for that was to allow the judicial system time to act.

A spokesman said after the Nebraska decision that Obama still opposes the bill, but environmental groups will rally in Washington, D.C., and across the country today to apply pressure. The groups—including the Sierra Club, 350.org, CREDO and the Rainforest Action Network—oppose the pipeline because of its environmental implications. Producing oil from tar sands releases more carbon dioxide than drilling for it in traditional ways, and the extraction process and pipeline would cause local impacts to air and water quality.

In Louisville, activist Drew Foley said the Keystone XL pipeline has the potential to affect the entire world and thus is relevant for local residents, too.

“The place its coming from—the tar sands fields in Alberta—is one of the largest carbon deposits in the world. And if we use all that carbon, the climate is going to get warmer,” he said. “It’s dangerous for everyone and for the whole world. This issue has become a symbol for us of what humans are doing to the planet through their use of fossil fuels.”

Local activists will hold a protest vigil at 4:30 p.m. today at the corner of Sixth and Broadway.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.