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The Daily Tar Heel

Students protest pending Keystone Pipeline construction permit in D.C.

While many college students were in the library this weekend, some found themselves attached to a White House fence.

Nearly 400 people were arrested Sunday during a protest launched by students from universities nationwide to try to prevent President Barack Obama from granting a permit to builders of the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport tar sand oil across the Canadian border — and, protestors say, pose a threat to the environment.

Among the 398 protestors arrested was Ishan Raval, an N.C. State University junior philosophy major. He participated in the rally with NCSU’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

“Some people, myself included, took part in a re-enacted oil spill,” Raval said.

The U.S. Department of State invited the public to comment on the pipeline project within a month-long period that ends Friday.

UNC geological sciences professor Jose Rial said the pipeline would cause enormous damage if broken.

“These things break down. The longer they are, the more probable it is that they break and spill,” Rial said.

The pipeline would stretch from Canada to Nebraska.

Tar sand oil is much more toxic than regularly extracted crude oil, Rial said.

“Scientists have been very clear in saying that the tar sand in Canada should remain underground,” Rial said. “The more (the tar sands) are exploited, the more carbon dioxide we are injecting into the atmosphere.”

The amount of carbon dioxide in the environment already breaches a safe level, he said.

Raval and other students arrived in Washington, D.C., on Saturday and received civil disobedience training from protest organizers. The next morning, they marched from Georgetown University’s Red Square to the White House for a rally, after which some participants used zip-ties to secure themselves to a fence.

Arrests began shortly after the oil spill re-enactment. Protestors received citations for blocking passage and a $50 fine, said Jamie Henn, spokesman for 350.org, a group that supported the protest.

“(The arrests) took a long time, since there were more than 300 people getting arrested,” he said. “It was the longest part of the entire weekend.”

Raval said he hopes the protest will help prevent Obama from approving the Keystone Pipeline project. He said similar protests in 2011 played a part in the administration pushing back the deadline for a decision on the project.

“I think that this one action will have some impact,” he said. “Whether it will be enough or not, I don’t know — I hope so.”

state@dailytarheel.com

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