POLITICS
09/21/2011 03:11 EDT | Updated 11/21/2011 05:12 EST

Hollywood actors protesting oilsands trying to rebuild careers: chamber official

CALGARY - An official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Hollywood actors who are speaking out against Alberta's oilsands and a controversial pipeline are more interested in rebuilding their careers than protecting the environment.

TransCanada Corp.'s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL line has become a lightning rod for the American environmental movement since climate-change legislation once passionately promoted by the Obama administration failed.

Daryl Hannah and Canadian actress Margot Kidder were arrested in Washington, D.C., last month in a protest against the $7-billion pipeline, which would ship oilsands crude from Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"I think it's people that are probably looking for some way to get back into the newspapers since they haven't been able to do it through their own careers," said Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

"I think it's a sideshow. It's sort of a circus-like atmosphere," she said.

"I can tell you the American public doesn't pay any attention to that. They see it for what it is. They see the benefits. They don't look at people who are trying to get arrested in front of the White House. That's a tactic that has been used forever."

Canadians Dave Thomas, perhaps best remembered as one of the hosers in SCTV's Great White North skits, and Graham Greene, who starred with Kevin Costner in "Dances With Wolves," have both said they support a protest in Ottawa on Monday.

"It is an environmental disaster and an ecological nightmare that must be stopped," Thomas said Tuesday.

"It wouldn't be happening if our country's leaders weren't so deeply vested in the pockets of big business and had even a modest concern for the long-term welfare of their fellow citizens and the planet."

The organizers of Monday's protest, which include Greenpeace, the Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network and the Polaris Institute, hope to muster hundreds of people from across North America in front of the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill.

"They're activists for activists' sake and we have a free country. They're free to express their opinions, but at the end of the day facts normally prevail and the facts on this pipeline and the oilsands will hopefully win the day," Harbert said Wednesday after a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

"It is important that this pipeline get built. It is important that we recognize that the oilsands will be developed either way. They'll either come to our market in the United States or they'll be going to China."

The U.S. State Department has said Keystone XL wouldn't pose major risks to the environment and wouldn't spur further oilsands production in Alberta. It said there's no evidence the pipeline would have a significant impact on the six U.S. states it would cut through to get from Alberta to Texas.

The pipeline still needs final government approval.

"The answer has to be yes," said Harbert.

"It's going to be a long-term project. You have to go through local issues but they've got a lot of those resolved, so they can actually flip the switch and start construction as soon as they are given that permit."