Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Urge Obama: Reject Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline: Media Release

Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama call on President to build clean energy legacy

OTTAWA (September 7, 2011)

Nine distinguished recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize have written to President Obama, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, saying his decision offers “a critical moment” to make good on his pledge to create a clean energy economy.

“We urge you to say no” to the pipeline and “turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions,” says the letter (DOWNLOAD PDF), sent today. “This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community: energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations.”

Read the full text of the letter below.

The letter was signed by nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams of Ireland, who shared the prize in 1976, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina (1980), Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa (1984), His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1989), Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala (1992), José Ramos-Horta of East Timor (1996), Jody Williams of the United States (1997), and Shirin Ebadi of Iran (2003).

The Keystone XL, proposed by TransCanada Pipelines of Calgary, would carry dirty, toxic and corrosive oil from the tar sands of Alberta through six states in the American heartland to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Obama Administration has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to permit the pipeline, after the State Department determines whether it is in the national interest.

Opposition to the pipeline has surged in recent weeks as more than 1,250 people were arrested in 14 days of sit-ins at the White House – perhaps the largest wave of civil disobedience ever for an environmental cause in the U.S. More protests are being organized for September 26 in Ottawa and the first week of October in Washington.

“In asking you to make this decision,” the Nobel Laureates wrote to Obama, “we recognize the thousands of Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd.  These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in that time. They represent millions of people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected by construction and operation of the pipeline in Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.”

The Laureates noted the risk of a pipeline spill contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of fresh water for the Great Plains. Concern for the fragile Nebraska Sandhills, which lie above the aquifer, has led Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman to call for rejection of the pipeline in its current route. TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline, which would connect to the XL, has leaked 14 times in its first year of operation.

The letter also called attention to tar sands oil as one of the dirtiest energy sources on Earth. If fully developed, the Alberta tar sands would be the second largest source of global warming gases in the world, which the Laureates said “will not only hurt people in the US–but will also endanger the entire planet.”

The letter was released today by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, an Ottawa-based nonprofit founded in 2003 by six of the only 12 women ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Read the full text of the letter below.

CONTACT:

Rachel Vincent, Nobel Women’s Initiative

(613) 569-8400 x113 or (613) 276-9030 (m)


September 7, 2011

Dear President Obama,

We–a group of Nobel Peace Laureates–are writing today to ask you to do the right thing for our environment and reject the proposal to build the Keystone XL, a 1700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

It is your decision to make.

The night you were nominated for president, you told the world that under your leadership–and working together–the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal.  You spoke of creating a clean energy economy. This is a critical moment to make good on that pledge, and make a lasting contribution to the health and well being of everyone of this planet.

In asking you to make this decision, we recognize the more than 1200 Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd.  These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in facing authority. They represent millions of people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected by construction and operation of the pipeline in Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

All along its prospective route, the pipeline endangers farms, wildlife and precious water aquifers–including the Ogallala Aquifer, the US’ main source of freshwater for America’s heartland.  We are aware that Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman–as well as two Nebraska Senators–has urged you to reconsider the pathway of the pipeline.  In his letter to you he clearly stated his concern about the threat to this crucial water source for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The aquifer supplies drinking water to two million people in Nebraska and seven other states.

We know that another pipeline that covers some of the same route as the proposed pipeline, and built by the same company proposing to build Keystone XL, already leaked 14 times over its first year of operation.

Like you, we understand that strip-mining and drilling tar sands from under Alberta’s Boreal forests and then transporting thousands of barrels of oil a day from Canada through to Texas will not only hurt people in the US–but will also endanger the entire planet. After the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, the full development of the Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases.   As NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, this is “essentially game over for the climate.”

There is a better way.

Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.

We urge you to say ‘no’ to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions.  This will be your legacy to Americans and the global community:  energy that sustains the lives and livelihoods of future generations.

Sincerely,

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) – Ireland
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) – Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) – South Africa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate (1989) – Tibet
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) – Guatemala
José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) – East Timor
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) – USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) – Iran