Fairfield Students Protest Keystone XL Pipeline

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Almost every Fairfield student has shown his or her support for one club or another as they fight for a cure for cancer, raise money to volunteer abroad, or hold sign-ups for a blood drive.

Only three Fairfield students, however, drove the six hours to the nation’s capital to join in the protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Nov. 6.

Seniors Shannon DeMatteo and Kathryn Bimson and freshman Kelly Miraglia, represented the Fairfield University’s environmental club, LEAF, in the rally that was composed of over 12,000 other environmentalists, all showing their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. The rally’s aim was to protest President Obama’s potential approval of the “presidential permit” that would allow this pipeline to cross the international border with Canada.

The pipeline would carry tar sands oil, the dirtiest fuel on the planet, some 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through the heart of the United States down to the Gulf Coast, risking oil spills that would damage ecosystems, pollute water, and pose serious health risks.

“No demand for oil should be worth the dangers that this pipeline poses to our environment,” said DeMatteo. “Unfortunately, Americans have forgotten the consequences of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico just a couple years ago, and, if approved, this pipeline threatens the same amount of damage.”

The rally, which took place in Lafayette Square just next door to the White House, began with several speakers including the co-founder and global organizer of the environmental group 350.org, Bill McKibben.

Other speakers included environmental leaders, Nobel Prize recipient Jody Williams, and even celebrity actor Mark Ruffalo. “After hearing some of the amazing speakers, I knew what we were doing was right,” stated Miraglia. “Someone needed to fight to have this project stopped and I am so grateful that I could be a part of that.”

Following these speeches, protesters made their way to the White House in three large groups where they surrounded the White House and linked arms. The protest lasted from 1:30 till 5:30 with closing speeches by McKibben and other activists.

Less than a week later, DeMatteo, Bimson and Miraglia received news that the protest was successful in helping to delay the construction of the pipeline. Obama sent the project back to the State Department for a re-review, which McKibben believes, will essentially kill the project.

Hearing this news, DeMatteo expressed, “It’s a great feeling knowing that you were part of something like this that will help keep our environment safer, but the fight is not over yet.”

For more information on this project and other environmental initiatives, go to www.350.org. LEAF meetings are also held every Thursday night at 7:30 in the BCC Mezzanine.

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