Nurses and environmental activists joined together today to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline, a proposed toxic pathway that would transport 900,000 barrels of tar sand a day from Canada to Texas, cutting through 1,700 miles of American Heartland. A toxic mix --  threatening public  health, despoiling water and laying waste to landscape – has been offered up by industry and supporters as a recipe for “energy independence” and applauded for its job-creating effects. Robin Hood knows better.

Clean energy jobs are a key focus of the Robin Hood tax, providing significant numbers of jobs while keeping communities clean and healthy. “The reign of austerity,” said Michael Lighty, NNU’s policy director, “offers false choices.” With a tax on Wall Street speculation, raising up to $350 billion annually and directed to green economic projects, “false choices” can be pushed aside. 

A green economy makes dual sense: growing the economy and keeping communities healthy. Approval of KXL would further entrench the corrosive power of the fossil fuel industry in distorting U.S. public policies.

For now, projects like Keystone XL Pipeline must be sidelined. That’s what brought out National Nurses United members to rally and march across the Golden Gate Bridge, joined by an array of environmentalists, representing 350.org, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Equal Healthcare Network, the California League of Conservation Voters, Rainforest Action Network and others. UNITE HERE members were also present. There were, as well, nurses visiting from 14 countries, including Australia, S. Korea, Guatemala and Israel. In all, they totaled about 1,500.

“Nothing related to Keystone XL is good for our families, our communities or our planet,” announced Debra Burger, RN and NNU co-president from the rally stage. “From extraction to transport to refining, tar sands oil will exacerbate our current health emergency…. This is a clear and present danger to public health.”

On this same day, a study carried out by the Environmental Working Group that was released in Washington, D.C. It is a scathing indictment of tar sands, its extraction and transport. The study sets out independent lab tests of a sample from an Exxon tar sands pipeline rupture on March 29, 2013 in Mayflower, Arkansas, that detected several highly toxic chemicals. “A single sample of tar sands oil included chemicals that cause cancer in humans and produce serious and permanent birth defects in children,” said Renee Sharp, director of research of the Environmental Working Group. 

Among the chemicals detected in the sample were benzene, xylene, chromium and lead, which are known carcinogens and injurious to the nervous system, according to the study. The pipeline that burst in Arkansas was carrying the same type of Canadian tar sand that would flow through KXL. 

Brenda Prewitt, RN and NNU member, traveled from Houston to join the march across the Golden Gate. Prewitt’s a pediatric nurse with 25 years on the job. “We have a lot of kids with respiratory issues coming in everyday. We have ozone alerts all the time. Another pipeline increases the issues we already have.”

With kites hugging the air above the bridge, a sailboat beneath outfitted with banner, protesters cheering and chanting  -- “We are unstoppable, A healthy world is possible! – nurses and supporters, a group extending hundreds of yards crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on its pathway.  Madison Davis, a college student and environmentalist from San Jose was there with the nurses.  “This is the one chance we have to stop major oil companies.  Obama is going to lose a large amount of support if he allows Keystone to be built.  It would be a tragic mistake,” she said.   “There is no other planet to go to.”