BOSTON/Government Center - About 50 climate and #OccupyBoston activists marched to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s Boston office Thursday to protest his co-sponsorship of a Senate bill introduced last week that would give Congress the power to approve the contentious Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline, bypassing the Obama administration. The administration rejected the pipeline last January.
Decked in striped referee jerseys, blowing whistles, and tossing red penalty flags in the air, the protesters called “foul” on the senator’s support for the proposed 1,700-mile oil pipeline and for voting consistently, they said, with "dirty" energy and other corporate interests, citing these as examples of the corrosive influence of corporate money in politics.
"We want the dirty oil money out of our politics and the dirty oil to stay in the ground," said Martin Dagoberto, an #OccupyBoston activist from New Bedford, to cheers. "Today we’re here to blow the whistle on Scott Brown. But we have to remember - this is bigger than Scott Brown. It’s bigger than the Republicans. It’s bigger than the Democrats. The whole damn system has been [poisoned] by corporate interests that put the profits of corporations before people, and before the planet."
The protesters sought to draw attention to the senator’s alleged receipt of $1.9 million in campaign support from the fossil fuel industry and allied political groups since his election run in 2009. The figure includes a million dollars of independent spending to support Brown by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The Chamber of Commerce is a major lobbyist for TransCanada’s Keystone XL project.
Sen. Brown’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The 44 senators who introduced the Keystone pipeline approval bill, S.2041,received a combined $22.3 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry from 1989 through the third quarter of 2011, according to the Public Campaign Action Fund.
The loose climate coalition includes members of the national environmental group 350.org, Boston Tar Sands Action, and the Occupy Boston Climate Action, Sustainability and Environmental Justice working group, which took shape after the eviction of #OccupyBoston from Dewey Square and gained steam in January.
Fran Ludwig, a retired science teacher from Lexington - and former middle-school teacher of renowned environmentalist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben – refuted TransCanada’s claim that the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs as misleading. "They’re talking about job years, not individual jobs," she said, referring to a recent Cornell University study finding that the pipeline project may destroy more jobs than it creates.
Many of the activists were veterans of last November’s Tar Sands protest in Washington D.C., when over 10,000 environmental activists surrounded the White House to press Obama to reject the pipeline. Now activists are trying to bring the Keystone XL battle to congressional districts.
For #OccupyBoston, making the link between energy industry influence and Republican support for Keystone XL was a key draw into climate activism. “There’s no democracy when oil and coal companies are able to pay off our politicians,” said Shoshana Blank, a climate working-group spokesperson. She said the group plans to bring the message more directly to Scott Brown the next time he’s in Boston.
The Keystone XL pipeline legislation could reach the full U.S. House of Representatives for a vote as early as next week.