On the 8th of August, protester returned to 13th and I sts, best known from the Jan 20th (J20) Inauguration protests. TransCanada has their DC corporate office inside 1250 I st (which actually faces 13th st), and on August 8 a number of groups staged a rally against the Keystone XL and Eastern Panhandle Expansion (Potomac) pipelines. After the rally protesters held a round dance blocking 13th st from the TransCanada office to the Wells Fargo across the street.
Organizers of the protest and round dance included Rising Hearts, 350 DC, D.C. ReInvest Coalition, Bold Nebraska, Sierra Club, 350.org, Oil Change International, Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, Washington DC Chapter, DivestInvest, Food & Water Watch, GreenLatinos, and many more groups.
In addition to the demand that TransCanada cancel the Keystone(as they now are discussing) and Potomac pipelines, protesters had demands for the DC government too. Across the street from TransCanada’s office is pipeline-pushing Wells Fargo, also infamous for funding private prisons. Speakers reminded everyone of the DC Reinvest campaign to get the DC government to divest from Wells Fargo and reinvest those funds in community banks. A bill to divest from Wells Fargo is currently being blocked in Committee by Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans. His name drew a chorus of boos from protesters when this was mentioned by a speaker. Activists are also asking the DC government to object to the Potomac Pipeline (Eastern Panhandle Expansion) on the grounds that it threatens DC’s drinking water supply by promoting fracking near the Potomac River. One speaker mentioned that lack of DC statehood makes it more difficult for DC to do anything about this threat.
TransCanada is still discussing building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and now has the permit in their hands that was blocked by Obama for 5 years due to pressure from activists. The problem for TransCanada is that oil prices have collapsed since 2014, and tar sands “oil” requires crude oil prices of about $75 a barrel to make a profit. Oil has not sold that high in three years, and TransCanada says they will decide by sometime in the Fall whether or not to proceed with the now-unprofitable Keystone XL northern leg project at all. There is much speculation that they will cancel for economic reasons. In that case what looked like a hard-fought but temporary victory becomes a final victory for Indigenous people and ranchers alike who fought with everything they had against this dirty pipeline.
Here in DC, our water too is threatened by TransCanada, which is seeking to build the Eastern Panhandle Expansion (Potomac Pipeline) to link the fracking fields of Pennsylvania to proposed new industries in West Virginia. This pipeline need not fail to contaminate the Potomac River, fracked wells over the Penn line could do that on their own. Like the Keystone, the danger in this pipeline is that it encourages expansion of a dirty and dangerous mode of fossil fuel production, plus the danger of a broken pipeline. As a gas pipeline, the main danger from a break of the Potomac Pipeline itself is explosion and fire. It is leaky fracking wells that would contaminate the river, and there are sure to be more of them, maybe a lot more of them, if the Potomac Pipeline is ever built.