One Cornell student was arrested outside the White House Friday morning after protesting against a proposal to construct a 1,700-mile pipeline stretching from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.
Erin Meyer-Gutbrod grad, one of 381 protesters arrested last week, staged a sit-in with the environmental group Tar Sands Action to urge President Barack Obama to reject a permit for TransCanada, the company hoping to build the continent-wide “Keystone XL oil pipeline,” an extension to an existing pipeline.
“I’m hardly an activist. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I was really, really pissed off that this pipeline was being built,” Meyer-Gutbrod said.
While TransCanada asserts that approval of the project will bolster economic activity and generate more than 20,000 jobs, opponents fear the pipeline will adversely affect the environment.
According to a report released by the U.S. State Department Friday, the pipeline will not have any significant impact on the environment, though it will present “significant adverse effects to certain cultural resources.”
In response, environmentalists condemned the government’s findings. The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, called the report “an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people.”
Meyer-Gutbrod gathered in front of the White House with other protesters before she was ordered by police to leave. When the group refused, 54 of its members were arrested.
“It was very scary, but I felt in control of the situation ... It was one of the biggest things I’d participated in in a democracy,” she said.
Meyer-Gutbrod said she was released from detention within three hours after paying a $100 fine and receiving a citation. Prior to participating in the protest, she underwent a legal briefing with Tar Sands Action and was instructed to write the phone number of the group’s lawyers on her arm in permanent marker.
“So far, I think Cornell hasn’t been extremely involved, but I think the plan is to get more people involved starting next week,” Meyer-Gutbrod said, adding that an undergraduate group had planned to attend the rally last week but did not because of tropical storm Irene. Meyer-Gutbrod said she hopes to continue raising awareness about unclean energy in September, when Prof. Chuck Greene, earth and atmospheric sciences, will organize a cycling event called “Tour de Frac” to raise awareness about local areas targeted for hydrofracking.
She said the experience, while nerve-wracking, had a substantial impact on her.
“There’s something powerful about being in D.C., about being in front of the White House, where all the action happens, and being able to stand up and say your piece. It’s just very empowering,” she said.