WASHINGTON – Visit the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website today, and you can expect to find a black screen. More than 400 groups, including the National Wildlife Federation’s Action Fund and 350.org, a leader in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, are doing the same thing.
Environmental and other groups say they are staging the one-day blackout to protest efforts by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his allies to crack down on opponents of the pipeline. Nearly all Canadian environmental organizations, all four opposition parties and others will shroud their websites in black, displaying the message, “While our websites may be dark, our voices together are louder than ever.”
Construction of pipelines that would carry petroleum from Alberta’s oil sands to the U.S. is a top priority for the Harper administration and his Conservative Party. The delay of the $7-billion Keystone XL project – a result of opposition by U.S. environmentalists and objections in Nebraska to part of the proposed route – has been an unexpectedly stubborn obstacle.
The Harper government and pro-pipeline lawmakers in Canada have written a new budget bill, set to pass this month, that they say would streamline environmental reviews, strengthen pipeline safety and ensure that nonprofits work only on charitable efforts, not politics. Opponents counter that the sweeping bill would gut the country’s environmental laws and sharply curtail nonprofits’ activism.