An amazing thing happened today. At 9 a.m., an urgent call was sent out through a few networks of environmental activists — with 350.org, NRDC and Credo Action leading the pack. Once again, those tricky U.S. senators were trying to slip in a blank check approval of the hugely controversial Keystone XL pipeline, this time into a new transportation funding bill.
Within a few hours, dozens of other organizations and citizens groups had signed on. By early afternoon they had more than 300,000 signatures. By 5 p.m. more than 500,000.
This may very well set the record for the fastest digital slap-down of Congress in history. Senators take note! You are being watched ... very carefully.
Just a few months ago, many of these same members of Congress attempted to hold hostage the Payroll Tax Cut bill pending an approval of the pipeline (which would traverse one of the largest freshwater aquifers in America) without full health and environmental impact studies. Before that they attempted to strong-arm the Obama administration to dispense with the standard EPA review, even though the recently completed "state-of-the-art" Keystone 1 pipeline by TransCanada had experienced more than a dozen spills in a year.
Both times citizens rose up, even risking arrest to stop the pipeline. And each time divergent groups of concerned citizens joined forces, getting more unified and more organized. When elected leaders like Sen. John Thune of South Dakota (who is heavily funded by fossil fuel companies) attack the EPA and the very process of democracy itself, he should realize it's not going unnoticed.
The vehemently anti-EPA pack in Washington may very well be doing the environmental movement a great favor — galvanizing a nation of truly "wired" activists who can turn out a half million petitions in a day. Just imagine what these folks will be able to do come election day!
Though the future of the tar sands pipeline may be uncertain, one thing is — business as usual in Washington is over. Groups like 350.org and NRDC may not have the millions of dollars that the oil lobbyists do, but they can sure turn out some serious political heat.