UC Berkeley students protest the possible construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Kevin Chen/Staff

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Spurred by the release of a statement by the U.S. Department of State concluding that construction of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline would have minor effects on the environment, students from UC Berkeley and Bay Area residents gathered to protest the project Monday night.

The pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from western Canada to Nebraska, has been a point of contention nationwide. Though the environmental impact statement claims the pipeline’s effects would be minor, UC Berkeley senior Ophir Bruck, among others, disagrees.

“The report says that (the pipeline) will be the equivalent of 6 million new cars on the road, which to us is not negligible and clearly fails President Barack Obama’s climate test,” Bruck said. “Technically, any net increase in greenhouse gas emission is not in the nation’s best interest.”

Bruck, among around 40 other attendees, held candles and displayed signs in protest of the pipeline in front of Sather Gate. One Berkeley resident, Andy Mardesich — who protested hand-in-hand with his five-year-old son, Max — said he would not be surprised if Obama approved of the pipeline.

Before the protest, ASUC  sustainability director Haley Broder said that how Obama chooses to address this project is a precedent for future action regarding climate change, setting the tone for how the nation will handle its dependence on fossil fuels. She said such a decision would be the “defining moment” for the environmental movement.

“To completely turn a blind eye to these impacts would be a complete slap in the face,” Broder said. “All support from environmentalists would be gone along with (Obama’s) credibility with the environmental movement.”

Broder noted that because the pipeline would run through six states’ land, an oil spill would invariably be detrimental to the country’s food supply.

Freshman Wes Adrianson, environmental advocacy coordinator with the ASUC Office of Sustainability, holds a similar opinion — particularly about Obama’s reputation as a “climate hero.”

“Obama has yet to take definitive action on an issue like the Keystone Pipeline,” Adrianson said. “If he is somebody who believes in climate change and says it’s a fact, the only logical decision for him would be to reject (the pipeline).”

Bruck and Broder mentioned concerns about a potential conflict of interest within the U.S. Department of State’s review process. Though the details are still unclear, Bruck said the environmental consulting firm hired by the department to assess the impacts of the pipeline likely had ties to TransCanada, the corporation advocating the construction of the pipeline. According to a recent article published in the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of State’s inspector general is investigating this claim further, though it opted not to release its findings on the same day as the release of the statement.

As Obama’s decision whether to approve the pipeline’s construction approaches, UC Berkeley senior Meredith Jacobson said she has a hopeful outlook on the campus’s potential to counter this advancement.

“Berkeley has an amazing track record of movement-building,” Jacobson said. “If we can organize as many people as possible, it’s been proven that is how we make change. We have the power to do what we want to do.”

Adrianna Dinolfo covers academics and administration at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Adriannadinolfo.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Andy Mardesich’s opinion of President Obama would change for the worse if he approved the Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, Mardesich said his opinion of the president would change for the better if he were to disapprove of the pipeline.