St. Edward's University Student Meets with White House Officials in Washington, D.C., to Discuss Fossil Fuel Alternatives
Jarymar Arana, a senior majoring in environmental science and policy, traveled to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to meet with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House Liaison to Young Americans Ronnie Cho. Arana joined 30 student leaders from across the country for an event called 100% Clean: 100 Actions for Clean Energy. The event concluded a month of action on campuses nationwide that seek to move away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy economy.
Student leaders had the opportunity to brief both Administrator Jackson and White House Liaison to Young Americans Cho on student efforts to transition their campuses and communities off coal and dirty energy to clean energy solutions. In the meeting with Jackson, Arana thanked the administrator for her leadership on new rules to protect public health from coal pollution and for the EPA’s concerned responses to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile long, three-foot-wide crude oil pipeline that would run from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, through six states to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.
“I asked the administrator if she would continue to stand up for the health and environment of communities that would be impacted by the proposed pipeline and she said ‘yes,’” said Arana. “It was good to hear Lisa Jackson talk about her work to protect the health of communities affected by coal and oil pollution and know that she is on our side and a vocal champion on the hill.”
Then, student leaders headed to the White House for a conversation with Ronnie Cho about urging the President to take bold action to transition the nation to cleaner energy sources that will create jobs and improve the health of communities like those along the Gulf Coast and East Texas, who are against the proposed crude oil pipeline.
Arana was the only St. Edward’s University student invited by the Student Sierra Coalition to attend these meetings. Arana was selected because she is part of the Student Sierra Coalition’s Beyond Oil campaign, which seeks to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from getting a permit from the State Department and President Obama. Arana feels strongly about the project because she grew up in Brownsville — the southernmost tip of Texas — an area that will be affected by the Pipeline project. She is working with students at the national, state and local levels to organize opposition to the project.
Locally, Arana is working with students at St. Edward’s University, University of Texas–Austin and University of Texas–Pan-American, as well as Texas-based groups such as Texans Against Tar Sands. Students have helped boost turnout to the recent State Department hearings in Port Arthur and Austin, Texas, as well as to anti-Keystone XL rallies and bike rides. They have also brought the issue into their communities and classrooms.
“Right now I believe stopping this pipeline is one of the most urgent issues facing communities in Texas and along the route,” Arana said. “The pollution from refining the toxic Canadian tar sands would harm communities in South Texas and along the Gulf Coast, where children currently living within a two-mile radius of oil refineries are 56 percent more likely to die from cancer. Obama must address energy and unemployment problems by rejecting the toxic Keystone XL and creating a clean and just energy economy. One based on solar and wind power that will create jobs and prevent pollution-related disease.”
The project is gaining national attention. It has been featured on Politico and Bloomberg:
NOTE: The photos in this blog entry were taken by photographer: Josh Lopez for the Energy Action Coalition.