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Syracuse environmental groups protest Keystone XL pipeline

Syracuse environmental groups gathered this week to oppose the building of the Keystone XL pipeline following the release of a report on its potential effects.

Keystone XL is a pipeline that would transport crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the U.S.

Environmental groups have opposed the 1,179 mile pipeline since it was proposed to the White House five years ago. The report, which downplayed the pipeline's environmental effects,  has led environmentalists to ramp up protests, including in Syracuse.

Jeff Wright of Syracuse said this is the worst kind of pipeline because it forces oil companies to use more energy to turn the thick tar sands of Canada into oil.

"I’m not a fan of pipelines, but this particular pipeline will increase the destruction they’re doing in Canada down into the United States, for tar sands to try to squeeze every last drop of oil and fossil fuel out of Mother Earth before they’ve decided OK, we’ve destroyed her enough now we’ll return to renewables,” Wright said.

Activists are calling on President Barack Obama to reject the plan in the wake of a final environmental impact statement released last week.

The State Department report on the pipeline, released Friday, acknowledged that the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions. It added, however, that if Keystone XL is not built, the oil from Canadian tar sands will still be extracted and transported in some other way, creating the same impact on the environment.  

Proponents of the pipeline have touted the $3.4 billion the report stated the pipeline could bring into the economy, while environmentalists say it fails the climate test set by Obama and would be a huge source of carbon pollution.

A vigil in Syracuse was held as part of a nationwide campaign to stop the pipeline. Syracuse protester Sandy Porter said the pipeline will have a major impact on the environment and global warming.

"It’s been put in the report, the environmental impact report, that it would be the equivalent to adding 5.7 million more cars on the roads in the United States," Porter said. "That’s significant.”

Federal agencies have 90 days to make a final comments on the pipeline. Obama has no deadline to make a final decision.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.