BEND, Ore. - About 20 protesters took to the streets of downtown Bend on Monday night to voice their opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.
Their message to President Obama was clear.
"Our main reason is to apply pressure on President Obama to remind him that this decision is in his hands. He needs to decide no on the Keystone XL Pipeline," said Rebecca Ince, the protest organizer.
Their main concern is the environment.
"We are very, very concerned -- the whole community is concerned about climate change, and we feel like the government is not taking it seriously," said Thiel Larson.
The $7 billion Keystone XL project is highly controversial and a massive undertaking.
The pipeline would be 1,000 miles long and travel from western Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect to already existing pipelines south to the Gulf Coast.
Each day, the pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil to refineries in Texas.
Supporters of the Keystone XL project point to the economic boost that would come from the pipeline, as well as job creation and the independence from foreign oil.
And some of those backers also are in Bend.
"I would be for it, because we don't have enough domestic oil, and I don't want to have dependence on Middle East oil," said Doug Valitchka.
"If it helps reduce the price of gas, that might be good -- especially here," said Claudia Faast.
Oregon politicians also have made their voices heard on the issue -- and they, too, are split.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., supports the stalled pipeline and said in a statement: "The Keystone Pipeline would mean 20,000 American jobs.. These are real jobs in real communities that could have helped move America's economy forward."
Sen. Jeff Merkeley, D-Ore., disagrees and said: "I don't see how an administration that says fighting climate change is a key obligation to our children can approve a new pipeline that helps bring the dirtiest fuels to market."
Colleague Ron Wyden, D-Ore., agreed: "The Keystone Pipeline is an environmentally risky and economically dubious project that would have boosted the balance sheets of oil producers at the expense of American families."
After five years, the political battle over the Keystone XL project could now be in the final stages. The State Department last week released its long-anticipated environmental impact statement, which found the project will have "no major" climate impact.
Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments have 90 days to comment before the State Department makes a recommendation to President Obama on whether the project is in the national interest.
A final decision by the President is not expected before summer -- all the more reason for the debate to be intensifying.
At the Bend protest, Alice Hodgdon said, "That particular oil is dirtier than a lot of the other oil that we currently extract and use. But any time we're using oil, extracting oil, transporting oils, it causes issues."
"This (stopping the pipeline) would be one of the best ways that we could show the world that we really care about climate change," said Alice Elshoff.
Asked its views on the controversial project, the Deschutes County Republican Party provided this statement:
"As you would expect, we vigorously support the construction of the Keystone
XL Pipeline. The most recent environmental report released by the State
Department specifically stated there are no major environmental concerns in
regards to moving forward with the pipeline.
"Unfortunately, at a time when America drastically needs jobs and energy
self-reliance, environmental extremists continue to be undeterred by the
facts, and instead revert to unscientific emotion and hysteria.
"President Obama, beholden to the financial pocketbook and theology of
environmental extremists, is continuing to drag his feet in spite of the
evidence that the pipeline is in the best interests of the United States and
"We encourage the president to put aside his partisan affiliation with a
handful of environmental extremists and approve the Keystone XL Pipeline