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ASUC Senate committee passes bill opposing Keystone XL

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2013

The ASUC Senate’s University and External Affairs Committee approved a bill at its meeting Monday that opposes the construction of Keystone XL, an extension of the Keystone Pipeline, which is now pending approval of the entire senate.

The pipeline, which would transfer crude oil from tar sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas, is politically controversial and has raised concern among students due to its potentially detrimental effects on the environment. According to the bill, SB 11, the process of refining oil from tar sands requires more energy and water than refining oil from traditional sources and generates more greenhouse gases.

The bill also reflects concern that the extraction processes will occur near the homes of indigenous populations. Many indigenous communities, particularly those in Alberta, not only have been removed from their lands but also have seen increases in diseases such as cancer, the bill states.

“It is a major issue that is killing people and has the potential to kill even more people,” said CalSERVE Senator Caitlin Quinn, who authored the bill. “Clearly, it doesn’t stretch to California, but it is a major issue we should address.”

ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack authored a similar bill last year that urged the UC system to divest its funds from fossil-fuel companies. He said he applauded Quinn for her work with the environmental community to author this bill.

“Fossil-fuel divestment and defeating Keystone XL are two parts of the same movement to free us from the chains of an outdated and toxic energy infrastructure,” Pack said. “Keystone is of particular importance because if built, it will enable the release of enough CO2 to guarantee catastrophic climate change — it’s been referred to as a ‘game over’ moment.”

Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline say it will improve the economy by creating jobs while ending the need for overseas energy imports.

“While developing cleaner sources of energy should be a long-term goal, today this country still depends on imported oil,” said Brendan Pinder, president of Berkeley College Republicans. “In addition to creating jobs, this pipeline would help shift our dependence from the volatile Middle East to Canada, a stable country with more responsible environmental regulations.”

If the full senate passes the bill, ASUC President DeeJay Pepito will write a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline for the reasons outlined in the bill.

“As a research institution that actually gets a ton of money from BP and Chevron, we should still have the autonomy to take stances on these issues,” Quinn said. “There’s been a lot of activism on (the Keystone Pipeline) recently, and I prefer to address things proactively instead of waiting until after Obama’s decision.”

UC Berkeley professor of energy Daniel Kammen agreed the tar sands represent more of an environmental threat than traditional sources of petroleum.

“The ASUC is correct in wanting to block this, because the pipeline will make the climate worse,” Kammen said. “If the U.S. was starving for energy, maybe I would understand, but the thing is, we’re not starving for fossil fuels.”

Contact Jane Nho at 

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2013