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Civilly Disobedient Sierra Club Says No Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

The Sierra Club is going to break 120 years of tradition and policy and get all civilly disobedient on the Keystone XL's ass, according to blog posts and press releases from the conservation organization that has long tried to stay out of the get-arrested-for-the-environment fray. A blog post from Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune says, "For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every 'lawful means' to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further."

Citing Martin Luther King, Jr and Walden, Brune writes the day after Obama cited climate change in his inaugural address:

The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We've worked hard and brought all of our traditional tactics of lobbying, electoral work, litigation, grassroots organizing, and public education to bear on this crisis. And we have had great success -- stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants, and helping grow a clean energy economy. But time is running out, and there is so much more to do. The stakes are enormous. At this point, we can't afford to lose a single major battle. That's why the Sierra Club's Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

In doing so, we're issuing a challenge to President Obama, who spoke stirringly in his inaugural address about how America must lead the world on the transition to clean energy. Welcome as those words were, we need the president to match them with strong action and use the first 100 days of his second term to begin building a bold and lasting legacy of clean energy and climate stability.

That means rejecting the dangerous tar sands pipeline that would transport some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, and other reckless fossil fuel projects from Northwest coal exports to Arctic drilling. It means following through on his pledge to double down again on clean energy, and cut carbon pollution from smokestacks across the country. And, perhaps most of all, it means standing up to the fossil fuel corporations that would drive us over the climate cliff without so much as a backward glance.

In an interview  last week (see the upcoming Jan. 24 issue for a story), noted economist Jared Bernstein told EW that he doesn't think the Keystone XL will be stopped. "There is going to be a pipeline someday," he said. And said instead of starting from a place where we assume there isn't going to be a pipeline we should "be smart about where it goes." 

Is the Sierra Club big enough to be a game changer? Also today, the governor of Nebraska approved the pipeline through his state and sent a letter to that effect to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. Who knows, now that the Sierra Club's gone wild.