I landed in Washington, D.C., minutes after an earthquake and flew out hours before sections of the city lost power due to Hurricane Irene. In between, I was arrested for civil disobedience in front of the White House. A memorable trip.
But why? Because I'm hopeful that through persistent collective action, we can defuse the world's largest carbon bomb - the Alberta Tar Sands.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates carbon emissions from tar sands oil - from extraction to combustion - are 82 percent greater than emissions from more conventional oil.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline represents the primary fuse to that carbon bomb, and the Obama administration and State Department can snuff it by denying the pipeline permit.
Already, the Keystone I pipeline running through North Dakota is carrying nearly 600,000 barrels a day of the world's dirtiest oil to refineries in the Midwest. In operation for little more than a year, the pipeline has leaked 12 times. The most significant spill was in southeastern North Dakota in May, when 21,000 gallons (500 barrels) spilled.
In early June, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a Corrective Action Order for the Keystone I pipeline. To call this action unprecedented is putting it mildly. Consider that in the past 25 years regulators have issued only 48 CAOs. On average, those pipelines branded as being an immediate threat to life, property and the environment have been 45 years old.
TransCanada Corp. owns the Keystone I pipeline and is pushing hard for approval to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which will increase the flow of Alberta's gooey tar sands oil and send it to the Gulf Coast. On its way, the Keystone XL pipeline will cross several major watersheds, including the Ogallala Aquifer.
Those who traveled to our nation's capital to be arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline didn't face police dogs or fire hoses. Cynics might label our efforts as being civil disobedience "lite."
However, there's no joking about the consequences of the Keystone XL pipeline. It will exacerbate clear-cutting of boreal forest, threaten the cultures and livelihoods of several indigenous communities in Canada, result in more oil spills in the United States and hurl the planet further along the destructive path toward climate change.
Contact the Obama administration now. Tell the president to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.