WASHINGTON -- Environmentalists, union laborers, farmers and businessmen gathered in the nation's capital on Friday to take part in the State Department's final public hearing on construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, more than 1,600 miles to oil refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The issue at hand is whether the project will win the approval of the State Department, which has purview over any infrastructure projects that cross a U.S. border and, having completed its final environmental assessment in August, has sponsored a slew of public hearings in states along the proposed route of the TransCanada pipeline.
At a demonstration sponsored by the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), pro-pipeline members wore orange, in contrast to the blue worn by environmental advocates, and cheered, "We understand the need for renewable energy -- we're not there now. It's about jobs!"
Advocates of the pipeline say its construction will create jobs, while critics cite concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a history of leaks in an existing TransCanada oil pipeline known as Keystone 1.
Maura Cowley, co-director of Energy Action Coalition, was one of more than 45 anti-pipeline advocates who testified against construction on Friday.
"It's the end of a long process which has been filled with a lot of corruption between TransCanada and the U.S. State Department," Cowley said in an interview with HuffPost on Friday. She was referring to the investigation surrounding oil lobbyist Paul Elliott, who failed to disclose that he had previously served as an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when he registered as a foreign agent to lobby the department on behalf of TransCanada.
"But what we saw today was, once again, everyday Americans from young people to indigenous people to Nebraska farm owners all came out and said that this is not the wave of the future, that people want to see a clean energy economy that creates jobs, but that they don't want to see this pipeline expanded," said Cowley.
Susan Luebbe, a Nebraska farmer who spoke at Friday's event, said TransCanada had contacted her hundreds of times about building the pipeline through her family's land, but she rejected its requests for fear the oil pipeline would leak. Also testifying on Friday was Michael Klink, the Indiana civil engineer who warned HuffPost's Tom Zeller that he observed a litany of problems when he worked as a construction inspector at pumping stations along the existing Keystone pipeline as it was being built in 2009.
Randy Thompson, another farmer from Nebraska, said, "We feel like we're being thrown under the bus" for a project that will benefit only industry.
A final decision from the Obama administration on whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline is expected before the end of the year.
WATCH video of the event from ThinkProgress:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of Maura Cowley, co-director of Energy Action Coalition.
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