* Environmental groups worry about spills, forest damage
* 275 protesters arrested so far at the White House
* Pipeline to run from Alberta to Texas
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Aug 24 Ten U.S. environmental
groups came out in support of hundreds of protesters arrested
at the White House since Saturday for opposing a proposed $7
billion pipeline that would greatly expand imports of crude
extracted from Canadian oil sands.
The pipeline and processing of the oil, they claim, can
potentially spill oil over a vast source of underground water,
release large amounts of greenhouse gases, and damage Canadian
"We want to let you know that there is not an inch of
daylight between our policy position on the Keystone Pipeline
and those of the very civil protesters being arrested daily
outside the White House," the head of the groups said in a
letter sent to President Barack Obama.
The groups include the Environmental Defense Fund, the
Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Park police have arrested 275 protesters in front of the
White House since Saturday, including the environmental writer
Bill McKibben, a former White House official under President
Jimmy Carter named Gus Speth, and actress Margo Kidder.
The protest is slated to last until September 3 and
organizers say they expect 50 to 60 people per day are willing
to risk arrest and pay the resulting $100 fine until the action
Opponents of the TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) line, which
would extend from Alberta to refineries in Texas, worry it
could spill oil over a vast source of water in U.S. heartland
known as the Ogallala Aquifer, lead to extra greenhouse gas
emissions from the energy-intensive processing of the oil
sands, and cause destruction of forests in Canada to get to the
They hope to get the attention of Obama, whose
administration will decide the fate of the line, but who has
been on vacation during the protest.
The State Department is set this month to issue a final
environmental assessment of the line which could pave the way
for the administration to decide the fate of the line by the
end of the year.
Backers of the project say it would create thousands of
well-needed jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on oil from
countries that are unfriendly to Washington.
TransCanada believes the line will be approved and in
service by 2013.
The letter said Obama would "trigger a surge of enthusiasm
from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last
election," should he block the project.
"Democrats have to be worried about the youth vote," said
Kert Davies, a researcher at Greenpeace, one of the groups that
signed the letter.
Obama has done some things that environmentalists like,
such as raising fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. But
support from such voters could wane if Obama decides to approve
the Keystone line.
"Like it or not greens helped get Obama elected in 2008,
but right now many are uninspired," said Davies.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)