Keystone Pipeline Leads to Controversy Across the Country

For activist Gretchen Smith, the environment is something worth fighting for. At a young age, she began to make changes in her life to lessen her own footprint in the environment.

“I have never owned a car,” Smith said. “I have always ridden my bike wherever I need to go. I am building a home in Athens that will run off of Solar Energy and recycle my water whenever possible. I am unplugged to the technological advances that have caused the environmental damages around us.”

The Keystone Pipeline Debate in Washington D.C. has sparked a debate across the country for people like Smith. For activists, the pipeline represents more than an oil line coming through the northern parts of the United States.

It means opening up more chances for oil and natural gas companies to bring pipelines all over the country and eventually cause harmful environmental changes to the Earth as we know it.

“Pipelines bring the access debris from the burning of oil to the water sources in order to dump it,” Smith explained. “By doing this, the pipeline threatens water supplies all around the country.”

Smith is an advocate with the Georgia Climate Change Coalition (GCCC) which has been organizing protests all over Athens and has staged protests at the University of Georgia Arch. The GCCC is responsible for shedding light to Georgians about the recent statistics involving the changes in the environment because of oil and natural gas practices such as the pipelines.

“If the Keystone bill is passed in congress, more pipelines will stretch through the States. A new pipeline is being debated to come from Texas into the southern states to ruin our waters,” Smith explains. “Texas will profit from destroying our waters with their oil.”

University of Georgia (UGA) Professor in Multi Cultural Literature, LeAnne Howe, knows the effects of laws impacting Native American Tribes. At UGA, she teaches her students about the Native American prespective of being overrun by government for the past hundreds of years through literature. As a member of the Choctow tribe in Ada, Oklahoma, her people’s homelands, natural resources, and waters await the decision in Washington.

Howe was not willing to comment on the impact of the Keystone Pipeline as a whole on the Native American people due to tribal sovereignty, but she was willing to offer her own general prespective.

“The pipeline will affect the wildlife in the areas without creating jobs per se,” Howe said.

Tara Houska is a tribal rights attorney in Washington D.C. In an article on Indian Country Media Network’s, she stated: “The bill will approve a pipeline that will send tar sands oil through traditional tribal lands and the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Project, which provides the drinking water of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.”

GCCC Dan Everett states the overall climate change is something to be aware of as well.

“Climate changes everything. Every person on earth, every non-human species, and everything you care about will be damaged by this unfolding catastrophe,” Everett said. “We need to pay attention to the sheer magnitude of the impacts.”

According to Everett, The projected level of global warming — 4 to 6 degrees Celsius or more will make it difficult to maintain a “functioning and compassionate” human civilization as well.

The Keystone Pipeline and other pipelines like it impact moves to discover a gas better for the atmosphere to try to prevent more lasting damage.

“Oil from these pipelines burns dirty,” Smith explains. “It causes unsafe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This would mean continuing impacts around the world.”

University of Georgia students have protested with members of the GCCC to raise awareness about the impacts of the pipelines on the environment in Clarke County.

A bike ride was planned by the organization to deliver a petition to Governor Deal to persuade Georgia politicians in Washington D.C. to vote against Keystone.

“By riding our bikes,” Smith said. “We also showed how we were making changes in our routine to save our environment in Athens.”

On Feb. 24, President Obama vetoed the bill to expedite the Keystone Pipeline; however a vote in the senate scheduled on Thursday is expected to override President Obama’s veto.

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