Opponents of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline said protesters will sleep outside the site in Washington of the final public hearing on the project to ensure they get a seat tomorrow while a rally is held outside.
A hearing last month in Nebraska, one of six states the pipeline will cross, drew hundreds of protesters saying the $7 billion project threatens the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies 30 percent of the water used in the U.S. for agriculture. In Washington, actress Daryl Hannah and James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, were among those arrested at sit-ins in front of the White House in August.
“We are fearful that the industry will actually pay people to go and stand the line for them, so that they can fill the hearing with industry spokespeople,” Maura Cowley, a co- director of the Washington-based Energy Action Coalition, said in an interview today. “We’re sleeping on the streets of Washington D.C. tonight to quite literally block the ability of the industry to impact the hearing.”
TransCanada plans to build the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) pipeline to transport Canadian oil from Alberta to Texas refineries. The State Department, which is holding the public hearing tomorrow as part of a review because the project crosses an international border, has said it expects to make a final decision on whether to grant approval this year.
The Calgary-based company isn’t paying anyone to pack the audience, Terry Cunha, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview today.
“Everyone is entitled to appear” and “express their opinion,” Cunha said. “We’re aware that many local labor groups will be participating to highlight” that the project “will generate thousands of much-needed jobs across the United States.”
Pipeline construction will immediately create 20,000 jobs and increased investment in Canadian oil sand may add 500,000 jobs in the U.S. in the next two decades, Jack Gerard, president of the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, said in a phone interview today.
The State Department didn’t immediately return a phone call today requesting comment on the planned protests.
Cowley said 35 to 60 demonstrators may gather tonight at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where the hearing will be be held. Cowley said she expects the rally to draw as many as 1,000 pipeline critics.
Friends of the Earth, a Washington-based environmental advocacy group, released e-mails last month showing that Paul Elliott, a former deputy campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, set up meetings on behalf of TransCanada executives. Clinton is now secretary of state. The e-mails are evidence of the State Department’s pro-industry bias, Friends of the Earth said on Sept. 22.
TransCanada’s efforts to speak with State Department officials are similar to the steps taken by environmental advocates in making their case, Cunha said on Sept. 22.
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