08/19/2011 04:11 pm ET | Updated Oct 19, 2011

American Petroleum Institute Debates Top Activist Over Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline As Thousands Protest Project in DC (Video)

Thousands of environmental activists from across the continent plan to gather in Washington, D.C., this weekend to launch a two-week protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists plan to hold sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day in order to pressure the Obama administration as it decides whether to approve the pipeline's construction. The massive pipeline would cross the Yellowstone River, as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States. Many local Midwest and Southern communities are concerned about possible risks to human health and safety and environmental pollution posed by the pipeline.

Supporters of the pipeline say the pipeline will create some 20,000 construction jobs, and the company behind it, TransCanada, has already signed agreements to employ the members of four international unions if the project is approved. Last month, the Republican-controlled House passed a measure that would force a decision on the Keystone XL by November 1.

As the Obama administration faces industry pressure on one side and sustained grassroots protest on the other, Democracy Now! hosted a debate between Cindy Schild, the refining issues manager at the American Petroleum Institute, and Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, a group taking part in the Washington protests.

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