September 2011

New York Interfaith Power & Light is a non-profit organization made up of 87 member congregations of all faiths in the state of New York. We believe that, as people of faith, it is our moral obligation to act as good stewards of the earth.

New York Interfaith Power & Light opposes the Keystone XL “Tar Sands” pipeline because the project it is a tremendous step in the wrong direction, away from a clean energy future, and it will have a devastating effect on the environment.

Tar sands mining occurs in the boreal forest in Canada. The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would pump approximately 900,000 barrels of oil daily through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tar sands oil is hard to extract.

In order to produce one barrel of oil, more than four tons of material must be dug out of open pit mines. In the process of mining, oil companies are devastating the pristine Boreal forest in Canada, which provides critical habitat for wolves, grizzlies, 50 percent of North America’s migratory birds, and other species. For each barrel produced, miners contaminate two to four barrels of freshwater in order to separate the oil from the sand.

Tar sand oil mining will drastically worsen global warming.

Tar sands oil releases at least three times more global warming pollution than conventional oil.  To mine the oil, the Boreal forest is being destroyed. The Boreal forest is a “carbon sink” – storing vast quantities of carbon dioxide and keeping it out of the atmosphere. Preeminent climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute James Hansen has described the Alberta tar sands development as “game-over” for climate change.

The pipeline could contaminate water and land.

The Sierra Club calls Tar Sands oil “the most toxic form of oil on earth” because it contains sulfur, arsenic and heavy metals. The risk of a spill is very real, as spills occur with alarming frequency. More than 1.4 million gallons leaked out of oil pipelines such as this in 2010 alone. Consequences could be dire, as the pipeline would pass over and through the Ogallala aquifer, a source of drinking water for millions and source of 30% of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation. Indigenous people (called First Nations in Canada) are protesting against the pipeline, claiming that exploitation of the oil sands has already caused health problems at Fort Chipewyan.


The proposed XL pipeline will undermine our best efforts to develop a clean energy future for the Northeast and for America. If built, Keystone XL will lock us into a future in which our nation is dependent on one of the dirtiest and costliest fuels in the world.

This matters especially to people of faith as we look at injustice in the impact of global climate change. The consequences–drought, flooding, food shortages, and civil strife–are borne by poor countries and poor people, those lacking the resilience and resources to adapt.

Our faith also compels us to speak for intergenerational justice. Faith takes the long view rather than the immediate return in the next election or economic cycle. We speak not only for our grandchildren, but also to the “seventh generation” as the Iroquois Indians would say, in asking that the environment be protected from the long-term consequences of the pipeline.


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