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Marchers through downtown Wichita protest Keystone XL Pipeline

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, at 8:52 p.m.

At 37 degrees with a major snowstorm headed Wichita’s way, it was a cold day to protest global warming.

And that was kind of the point, said protester Kent Rowe, a professor of aeronautical science and military history for the United States Air Force.

“Contrary to what Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump say, weather is not climate,” Rowe thundered through a bullhorn during a six-block trek from the front porch of the Kansas Policy Institute to the doors of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Rowe and about 30 others marched through downtown Wichita on Monday night protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, proposed to carry low-quality, tar-sand oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Rowe, who also serves on a sustainable-energy faculty council at Wichita State University, said the arctic blasts that have sent fingers of unusually icy air through the Midwest this winter are a symptom of climate change, which most scientists think causes more severe weather events. Processing of tar-sand oil into usable fuel generates high levels of carbon pollution, which scientists also link to climate change.

The proposed pipeline expansion would cut through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, linking up with an existing Keystone pipeline passing through central Kansas from Steele City, Neb., to Cushing, Okla. New pipeline segments would link Cushing to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

The protest vigil was one of three scheduled in Kansas and more than 280 hastily scheduled across the nation since Friday, when the State Department released a long-awaited supplemental environmental impact statement on the pipeline. The report’s basic conclusion was that the pipeline would have little overall effect on total carbon pollution because the tar-sand oil would be transported by rail and used anyway, even if the pipeline is rejected.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies will get to weigh in before President Obama decides whether to approve the pipeline.

Wichita’s congressional representative, Republican Mike Pompeo, is all for Keystone XL and urged Obama to go for it.

“I’ve been urging the administration to move forward on this project, and now that this long anticipated environmental review is complete, it’s time,” Pompeo, who ran an oil-field equipment company before he was elected to Congress, said in a statement. “The American people have spoken, the science is clear, and now it’s time to embrace greater energy security.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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