Bailey VenJohn
Staff reporter

Not many people can say that they have stood up and protested something that they believe is wrong. A few Southwestern students are about to get just that opportunity this weekend.

The TransCanada XL Pipeline is a project that has been in action since 2010. It is an export pipeline. Gulf Coast refiners want to refine the cheap Canadian crude into diesel and other products.

The pipeline already stretches from oil sand fields in Alberta, Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma but the company, TransCanada, is looking to expand.
The new expansion will add 1,700 miles to the pipeline and it would be in two sections of expansion. The first would connect Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The second would be from Alberta, Canada to Kansas. It will cross 6 states including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

There are many opinions, both positive and negative, surrounding this idea. The Forward on Climate rally is a protest against the expansion of the pipeline. On Sunday the 17th at noon, the protestors will surround the White House.

Last year the rally brought in 15,000 people. The expansion of the pipeline is to cross international borders, therefore TransCanada needs to obtain a Presidential Permit through the State Department.The rally was a success last year and Obama delayed the pipeline.

Charlie Hunter, biology professor, is attending the rally. He and his wife started speaking out against the pipeline a couple years ago and his wife actually attended this rally last year.

Hunter said “It’s the source that’s the problem, burning tar sands is one of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuel. The amount of CO2 that is released if it is burned, could potentially create quite a bit of havoc with problems related to global warming.”

Another problem Hunter acknowledged was that over 70% of the oil will be exported overseas to Europe and China, which really doesn’t alleviate problems here.

Sally McGuire, liberal arts and sciences senior, is excited to attend the protest. She said she has been to another protest while she was in D.C. for an internship.

This protest has potential to be unlike any other before. It could possibly be the biggest environmental protest in history.

McGuire said she has known about the pipeline for some time, “when I heard that I had the opportunity to go I was like of course.”

Paying for this out of her own pocket is evidence that McGuire really is invested. “The bus company actually offers a discounted bus fare for low income students” said McGuire.

A main concern of McGuire’s is that it would cross the Ogallala Aquifer. This is a giant freshwater aquifer that is used for water supply, mostly irrigation but also drinking water. The pipeline has the potential, that if it were to spill oil, it could contaminate a lot of water.

Winfield Friends of the Environment group was started by Lynne Hunter, Charlie’s wife. The group is made of mostly retired Winfield citizens. Rick Cowlishaw, biology professor, is a member of Winfield Friends of the Environment.

Cowlishaw said that the group meets once a month and just talks about what is environmentally affecting the community at the time. Sometimes they bring in people from the water plant and other local places to talk about what’s going on. The pipeline is one issue that the group is focusing on now because as Cowlishaw said “It is going to pass through our back yard.”

McGuire said she wishes she could be a part of Winfield Friends of the Environment, but because of when they host their meetings in doesn’t work with her schedule.

Natalie Jones, pre-med biology freshman, found out about the trip in a Green Team meeting.

She hasn’t ever protested before so this will be a new experience.

“I got a scholarship so I don’t have to pay for the bus trip” said Jones. She also said she didn’t really know where the scholarship came from but that “Lynne Hunter offered it because they had extras.”

Originally I just wanted to go because “Honestly it’s a trip to D.C.” said Jones. After being offered the scholarship and deciding to attend, Jones has become more interested in the topic.

The main problem I have against it and why I want to partake is because the residents of Kansas didn’t get the chance to fight it. “The land that it is going on is all private so we didn’t get the right to speak out against it” said Jones.

The group that is going to Washington D.C. this weekend is hoping to get a positive outcome. Either way, this will be a great opportunity for those students to stand up for something they believe is wrong.

Bailey VenJohn is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at bailey.venjohn@sckans.edu.