An Open Letter to Speaker Boehner, et.al.

I would like to share with you my reasons for opposing the Keystone XL pipelinewith the hope that, after thoughtful reflection and prayer, you will join me in my opposition.As a Catholic who identifies with the teachings and example of St. Francis of Assisi, I have come to understand that humanity is part of Creation, which is a special and precious gift from God that helps us to know and love Him. Wrote Thomas of Celano, “[Francis] rejoiced in all the works of the Lord and saw behind things pleasant to behold their life giving reasons and cause. In beautiful things he saw Beauty itself; all things to him were good.”

The Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with my Franciscan view of the world. The pipeline presents serious environmental and health risks. The Keystone XL will transport thick, toxic bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. Extraction of oil from the tar sands fragment and destroy the Boreal forest, killing migratory birds and many other species. Toxic waste from mining operations are stored in tailings ponds that already cover 65 square miles, resulting in higher rates of cancer among the Fort Chipewyan First Nations community. The destructive effects of tar sands extraction are so great that Luc Bouchard, Bishop of St. Paul in Alberta concluded that “…the integrity of creation in the Athabsca oil sands is clearly being sacrificed for economic gain. . . . The present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified. Active steps to alleviate this environmental damage must be undertaken.”

The Keystone XL pipeline will only transport this destruction into the United States. Between 2000 and 2009, pipeline accidents resulted in almost 3,000 significant incidents and over 160 deaths. In 2010, Enbridge pipelines spilled over 1 million gallons of tar sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, 275,000 gallons in a suburb of Chicago, and 126,000 gallons in North Dakota. If the Keystone XL were to leak, the environmental effects would be devastating.

Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline is one step we can take in alleviating the damage to Alberta’s Boreal forest, preventing future disasters in the United States, and exercising our duty to be good stewards of the environment.

“The earth is full of the steadfast love of the lord.” (Ps 33: 5) In a spirit of reciprocity, we must return that love. As Pope Benedict the XVI explained in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, “The envrionment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . . The protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet.”

Scripture tells us that we are our brothers keeper (Gen 4, 9-10); the Lord instructs us that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22: 39). Like St. Francis, I have come to understand the truth that all of Creation–the Boreal forest of Alberta, the waters of the Athabasca River, the migratory birds and other species, and the Fort Chipewyan First Nations–are our brothers and sisters. We have an obligation and responsibility to them that far outweighs any possible economic gain realized by the Keystone  XL pipeline.

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1: 31) I hope after considering my words and the wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi, you will reconsider your position on the Keystone XL pipeline and block its approval.

Thank you for your service, and may you be blessed with peace and all goodness!

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