UMass students protest oil pipeline proposal
COURTESY OF ALEXANDRA CHERAU Demonstrators gathered outside a Mobil gas station on Route 9 in Hadley and elsewhere Wednesday to protest an oil pipeline proposed for New England. From left to right are Ben Lester of Shutesbury, Brenda Kennedy of Amherst, Don Ogden of Leverett, John Berkowitz of Northampton, Laura Fitch of Amherst, Jasper Lapienski of Northampton and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Northampton. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — Dressed all in black, several University of Massachusetts students marched Wednesday from campus to the Town Common, representing a pipeline they fear will soon be carrying Tar Sands oil from western Canada into New England.
At the Exxon gas station on Northampton Road, other protesters gathered during the cold afternoon to hold signs expressing their opposition to bringing what they argue is highly toxic oil through the region.
Sarai Zelada, who led the student protesters, said they handed out literature as they passed people.
“I wanted to create a visual effect. I believe we got our message across,” Zelada said.
A similar rally was held at a gas station in Greenfield.
Mobilized by Climate Action Now, Wednesday’s rallies served to raise awareness that Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine may soon be a shipping route for Tar Sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Portland, Maine. A larger rally will take place in Portland Saturday.
John Berkowitz, director of Pioneer Valley Climate Action, said there are too many risks associated with this oil.
“There will be damage if this oil is bought and sold. It will hurt the climate,” Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz said climate experts, including Dr. James Hansen of NASA, argue that burning this oil would make it more difficult to stop and reduce climate change.
There are also worries about potential breaches along the pipeline that could contaminate drinking water and natural environments, Berkowirz said.
Concerns also have been raised about construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the same Tar Sands through the heartland of the United States into the Gulf Coast of Texas. A rally opposing that project is scheduled for Feb. 17 in Washington, D.C.
Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline say it will create jobs, provide energy security for the future and help the economy.
The pipeline recently won support from Nebraska’s governor and will soon be considered by President Barack Obama, who is expected to decide in March or April whether the pipeline should be allowed to cross an international border.
Berkowitz said Obama mentioned climate change at his inauguration Monday, and this will be an opportunity for him to take positive action.
“That was very welcome, but we need less words and more action,” Berkowitz said.