Former staffers and volunteers who have worked under President Barack Obama will "lead more than 100 people in civil disobedience at the White House" Thursday in an the ongoing protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, according to a release from the group.
Courtney Height, a former youth voting director for Obama for America and current Energy Action Committee staffer, is among those who will protest and risk arrest.
"Young people mobilized in record numbers in 2008 to elect a leader they believed would fulfill his promise,” Height said in a prepared statement. “Tomorrow I'm sitting-in with hundreds of other young people to call on President Obama to fulfill his promise and stand up to Big Oil. He must reject the Keystone XL pipeline; his legacy relies on it."
The pipeline would transport 50,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Canada to Texas' Gulf Coast region. U.S. Energy Secretary David Chu suggested Wednesday that the pipeline would likely be approved. The State Department also gave the nod to the $7 billion project and said that it would have limited environmental impact.
Extracting oil from the tar sands of Canada emits three to five times more greenhouse gas emissions than other methods of oil extraction and the process of extraction and separation actually uses more energy than the oil produces.
However, the message prevails that if the U.S. doesn't buy the oil someone else will.
"Even without [the pipeline] ... the oil is going to develop and is going to get to different refineries that are demanding it," a State Department official said.
Chu also hinted that diplomatic concerns could play into the pipeline deal.
“It’s certainly true that having Canada as a supplier for our oil is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil,” Chu said.
Members of the Tar Sands Action protest group have been sitting outside the White House since August 20 and more than 700 have been arrested, according to their website. Among the high-profile arrests are actress Darryl Hannah, the author of Obama's 2008 fundraising emails, Greenpeace's executive director and one of NASA's top climate scientists.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that he had not discussed the protests with the president.
Bill McKibben, environmental author and spokesman for Tar Sands Action, said that the lack of attention being paid would alienate the president's base.
“This is the largest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement in a generation, and if they really aren’t even discussing it with the president, that signals a deep disrespect for their supporters, especially young people who have demonstrated that the environment is a top priority," he said.