The Collegian
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Students rally against Tar Sands Pipeline

Students from three universities protested against the 1,700-mile Tar Sands pipeline at President Barack Obama's University of Richmond speech last Friday.

The pipeline would run from Canada and through the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. It would carry 90,000 barrels a day of the world's dirtiest oil, according to a report written by Jamie Henn.

"The pipeline would be crossing the largest fresh water aquifer that supplies 20 million people with drinking water," said Caroline Hansley, vice president of Green UR. "If any spill happened from the pipeline, it would be worse than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill would occur in the heartland of America and would expose 20 million people to contaminated drinking water."

At the rally, 20 members of Green UR along with Miriam McCormick of the philosophy department gathered outside the West entrance of Robins Stadium. The group wanted to show its "solidarity with the Tar Sands Action," according to the press release co-written by Hansley and Jamie Henn.

The rally came as a result of a two-week protest at the White House against the proposed pipeline that led to nearly 1,200 arrests, including Jasper Gunn, a junior and member of Green UR, Hansley said.

Gunn was arrested on a charge of non-violent disobedience, said Jerry Giordano, president of Green UR.

Green UR protested the proposal to build the pipeline, which would be 30 times less efficient than normal sources of oil, Giordano said.

Hansley said that the reason Green UR held the rally was that only Obama, not the Senate or Congress, would have the power to make a decision about the pipeline on Nov. 1, 2011.

"A lot of students feel that Obama has stepped back from his environmental promises," Giordano said. "We need to put pressure on him, so he knows an entire generation of people still cares about these issues and the direction the global environment is taking. Obama has full responsibility to approve or disapprove the project."

Giordano said that the goal had not been to protest Obama or to make him look bad, but to raise public awareness about the environmental decision, and to support him in making the right decision on the issue.

"If he wants people to get motivated, he has to show he's committed to our future," Giordano said.

Hansley described the rally as "a respectful and dignified rally that got local press."

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Asha Phadke, a member of Green UR said that the rally had been positively received.

"The main goal was to spread the word because a lot of people aren't aware," Phadke said. "I think we accomplished that."

The rally was the first opportunity to engage Obama after the culmination of the Tar Sands action, Hansley said.

"We set the bar for keeping this issue in the media and in the spotlight so Obama can't keep hiding," Hansley said. "We wanted to educate people to get local press, so Obama didn't think this would be a one time thing."

Contact staff writer Rachael Specter at rachael.specter@richmond.edu

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