‘It’s Not Just Keystone’: Midwest Gears Up for Massive Tar Sands Fight

This event is just one moment in a growing movement to stop tar sands and it is powerful.’

by: Nadia Prupis

A large protest in Minnesota this weekend is designed to show that the resistance to tar sands goes well beyond Keystone XL, as numerous environmental and social justice groups come together with Indigenous communities across the region to make their unified demands clear to all: “keep toxic tar sands out of America’s Heartland, fight for clean water, clean energy, and a safe climate.”

On Saturday, the Tar Sands Resistance March in downtown St. Paul will cap a week of convergences and local actions calling attention to and speaking out against various pipeline and infrastructure projects across the Midwest.

“This whole region should be concerned with the number of pipelines that are coming from the tar sands that seem to be where the action is right now and it’s just a wrong headed approach,” said Wade Schafer of the North Dakota Sierra Club.

Thousands of people are expected to come out for the day of action, which organizers say might be the biggest anti-tar sands event in the Midwest, with activists joining from as far away as Nebraska and Ohio. In St. Paul, representatives for participating groups said they were particularly concerned with plans by Enbridge Energy to double the size of Line 67, which currently transports 450,000 barrels of tar sands per day through the state. Enbridge plans to expand that to 800,000 barrels, which will require constructing pump stations and other equipment in cities throughout Minnesota.
“This event is just one moment in a growing movement to stop tar sands and it is powerful.”
—Catherine Collentine, Sierra Club

Andrew Slade from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership told the Northlands News Company this week that companies should pursue renewable energy and leave fossil fuels in the ground.  “All these pipelines really do is kind of accelerate an environmental disaster,” said Slade. “So let’s keep that oil in the ground and find cleaner ways to run our economy.”

And representatives from the Indigenous Environmental Network told the NNC that the pipeline expansion is more than just an environmental problem—it also threatens human rights, as it could affect the health of northern watersheds near tribal land.

The protest comes ahead of a possible milestone on another Enbridge project, the Sandpiper, as the state’s Public Utilities Commission debates granting the energy giant a certificate to go ahead with the pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota across northern Minnesota to Midwest refineries.

For other activists, the choice to take part in Saturday’s protests was much simpler. Carol Jean Larsen, Sierra Club member, told KFYR-TV, “It was important for me to be part of public witness that developing the tar sands is just a dumb idea.”

Speakers at the protest will include Reverend Lennox Yearwood of Hip Hop Caucus, Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Bill McKibben of 350, among others.

“We know what we want and we will let our leaders know too,” Catherine Collentine, Sierra Club tar sands campaign representative, wrote in a blog post. “This event is just one moment in a growing movement to stop tar sands and it is powerful.”

One of the organizers, Indigenous Environmental Network executive director Tom Goldtooth, explained to the Grand Rapids Herald Review that this weekend’s action shows how “The frontline communities are strengthening the resistance. They’re concerned, and we are linking up the pipeline resisters in Canada, northern Minnesota, out east and more.”

Source: ‘It’s Not Just Keystone’: Midwest Gears Up for Massive Tar Sands Fight | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

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Old and Broke in America? It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, Says Sanders

‘At a time when half of all older workers have no retirement savings,’ argues presidential candidate, ‘we need to expand, not cut, Social Security benefits so that every American can retire with dignity.’

by: Jon Queally

The Social Security system is plagued with disadvantages for poor recipients and ranks of those depending solely on SSI is increasing as economic inequality continues to mount. (Photo: digitalskillet/iStock 360 via Getty Images)

Are the baby boomers going bust?A new report by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday shows that the savings and overall financial stability of Americans older than 55 has dropped dramatically in recent decades, leaving a worrisome situation as the ranks of the elderly are set to increase even more in the years ahead.”Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we have got to demand that the richest people in this country pay their fair share.”—Sen. Bernie Sanders According to the report, more than half of this age group have no retirement savings whatsoever and most of these also have no pension (sometimes referred to has a defined benefit (DB) plan) or other spare savings to rely on once they stop working. The GAO says that Social Security currently provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older.But with Social Security payments not keeping pace with the cost of living, experts worry that without finding ways to increase Social Security’s reach the current crisis could turn into a full-blown disaster.

As the Huffington Post notes, “In 1975, most workers with employer-sponsored retirement plans had pensions that provided a lifetime ‘defined benefit.’ As of 2012, such plans had 40 million participants, while 91 million workers had retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s, which are based on workers’ own contributions and offer no guarantee of lifetime income.”

The GAO study was requested by Sen. Sanders, now a presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, who earlier this year was the lead sponsor of legislation designed to increase Social Security benefits for recipients.”This report makes it clear that there is a retirement crisis in America today,” Sanders said in response to the GAO findings.  “At a time when half of all older workers have no retirement savings, we need to expand, not cut, Social Security benefits so that every American can retire with dignity.”While Republicans and many austerity-friendly Democrats have openly discussed making cuts to Social Security, Sanders has been among those lawmakers who joined progressive-minded economists and social justice advocates to instead demand that Social Security be bolstered by increasing the cap on what high income earners pay into the program’s trust fund. Currently that cap is set at just $110,000 which means that people who earn more than that pay a much lower share of their income into the fund annually.

According to Sanders’ office, the Social Security Expansion Act‎ he put forth “would make the wealthiest Americans pay the same share of their income into the retirement program as other wage earners.” That change, Sanders argues, would extend the solvency of Social Security through 2065 while allowing monthly payments to Social Security recipients go up.  Under his proposal, Sanders says the average benefit would increase by $65 a month, cost-of-living adjustments would more accurately measure inflation, and an increase to the minimum benefit could lift millions of vulnerable seniors out of poverty in their final years.  “Social Security is the most successful program in our nation’s history,” Sanders said. “At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we have got to demand that the richest people in this country pay their fair share.”

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Source: Old and Broke in America? It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, Says Sanders | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community