Sierra Club President Arrested During Keystone XL Protest


Sierra Club President Allison Chin was arrested Wednesday outside the White House while leading members of her organization in protest for the first time in the group's history.

Chin wrote on her blog Wednesday that protesters hoped to pressure President Obama to back up the lip-service he gave to action on climate change last night in his State of the Union address and oppose the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which she said "would enable extraction of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet."

The move to protest was a historic one for members of the environmental advocacy group.

"This call for climate action is important enough that, for the first time in our 120-year history, we have suspended the Sierra Club's long-standing policy that prohibits civil disobedience," Chin wrote. "Today is a one-time event to face arrest in order to elevate discussion about a critical issue."

Members of the Sierra Club and other anti-Keystone activists handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House and held a banner reading "Lead on Climate Change Reject KXL Pipeline" under a logo similar to President Obama's. They cheered the names of each protester and thanked them as they were led away from the group by police.

Many environmental groups oppose the pipeline that would bring crude oil from Canada to Texas, saying the product it conducts will contribute to pollution and climate change. But conservatives argue it will bring much-needed jobs to America and safely transport oil for fuel.

During his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called for Americans to combat climate change "for the sake of our children and our future."

"If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will," the president said. "I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

But Obama's message on methods like the pipeline was mixed. On the one hand, he vowed to support clean energy initiatives. Yet he also promised to "keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits," which would imply the deregulation of energy production.

Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that a State Department assessment of the Keystone XL Pipeline would announce its findings soon, according to the Associated Press.

Also arrested as part of the protest today were actress Daryl Hannah, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and his son, Connor, famous for his short-lived relationship with pop princess Taylor Swift.

Hannah, famous for her roles in "Splash" and "Blade Runner," has been arrested on several occasions for protesting the pipeline - most recently just a month before the 2012 presidential election.

ABC's Ginny Vicario contributed to this report.