Florida students challenge Rep. Mack over Keystone XL Pipeline
Cross posted from the Southern Energy Network blog.
After learning that Congressman Mack openly supports the Keystone XL Pipeline and would like to see it built, we quickly organized a shadow squad to ask him publicly why he would promote something that could be so devastating to Florida’s Gulf Coast? Last night, two students from Florida Gulf Coast University – Tyler Offerman and Whitney Blair – and myself prepared to shadow Congressman Connie Mack at his Town Hall meeting in Ft. Myers. Previous to this support for the pipeline he promised his constituency that he would stand up to Big Oil and protect our clean air and public health, the economy, and the climate. We knew that we had to call him out on it!
We arrived early, in our green Power Shift shirts and had signs that read, “FGCU says NO to Keystone XL Pipeline,” and scoped it out. Soon after arriving we found out that Congressman Mack’s town hall meeting is not as democratic as we had planned – instead of his constituents being able to line up and speak at a microphone to ask questions or share concerns, Mack went around the crowd and chose who would get to speak. With this in mind, we strategically placed ourselves around the large room and practiced our message together, so if any of us were chosen to speak we would be ready with a really strong ask.
When he finally called on me – I was one of the last – he had already discussed his fervent approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline, to a hearty applause from the crowd. I had to make my point clear. I introduced myself into the mic as a young person representing the FL YES Coalition, our Florida state network. “Congressman Mack, when the BP oil spill happened, you promised that you would never let your constituents feel the horrible economic and environmental consequences of another disaster because of the oil industry. Yet, you just told us that you support the Keystone XL pipeline, which will cost $7 billion in taxpayer dollars and pose a huge threat to our climate. Will you promise to stand up and oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline, and instead invest in real, clean energy solutions for Florida?”
Murmurs of disapproval went around the room at my question, and Congressman Mack shot back with his reasoning – he claimed we must build the pipeline so we could stop supporting Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and protect our national security. What the Congressman failed to realize is that the oil that the pipeline would carry is just another sign of our national insecurity, our continued dependence on fossil fuels when we have real, safe, clean energy solutions out there.
We will no longer stand for lip service on the environment and protecting our coast from Big Oil when it is a politically popular thing to do. We need real action from our leaders in Washington! We will continue to be there, demanding action from Congressman Mack and all of our politicians who think we’re not listening.