Nebraska pipeline opponent, Indonesian environmentalist receive Climate Breakthrough awards

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A political leader and oil pipeline opponent from the U.S. Midwest and an environmentalist from Indonesia have been named this year's recipients of grants awarded annually by a nonprofit climate-action organization in San Francisco.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and the founder of pipeline opposition group Bold Nebraska, is the third U.S. recipient of the Climate Breakthrough Award, which is named after the organization. Gita Syahrani, who recently led organizations seeking to accelerate sustainable development in Indonesia, is that country's second recipient. Climate Breakthrough announced the awards on Wednesday in a news release.

Kleeb and Syahrani will each receive a $3 million grant, as well as separate funding for fundraising, legal and communications support and other efforts. Eligible awardees may also receive a $600,000 matching grant toward the end of the three-year grant period to attract additional funding and further support their work.

Kleeb was a key figure in the 12-year fight that successfully ended the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil sands daily from Canada through the middle of the U.S. to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico. She also helped lead the successful effort to oppose carbon dioxide-capturing pipelines in the Midwest.

Her efforts through Bold Nebraska brought together an unconventional alliance of farmers and ranchers, Native American tribes and environmental activists to fight attempts by oil and fuel companies to seize land through eminent domain and build pipelines. The opponents were concerned that potential pipeline spills would not only pollute the land where they were laid, but could leach into groundwater.

Kleeb's plans for the grant include creating a dividend that would issue annual payments to residents of rural towns that build clean energy. She also plans to organize in rural towns across the U.S. to promote clean-energy projects and ensure that such projects respect property rights.

“The past decade of stopping risky pipelines with unlikely alliances changed the status quo of climate organizing,” Kleeb said in a written statement. “I'm excited and ready to take on the challenge of building clean energy across rural America with a new economic and cultural model that brings energy freedom and land justice.”

Syahrani convened a network of diverse partners worldwide to help several Indonesian districts reach their target of saving at least 5.5 million hectares (13.5 million acres) of forest and 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) of peatlands by 2030. She plans to use the grant to help launch 100 nature-based businesses in forest and peatland-rich regions by 2026, and a public awareness campaign.

“If we succeed, we will have excited leaders, thriving entrepreneurs and a policy umbrella to integrate nature-based innovation and bioeconomy approaches into the development plans of all these jurisdictions,” she said in a written statement.

Climate Breakthrough, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded in 2016, has awarded the multimillion-dollar grants to 19 people in the past seven years. Donors to the philanthropy include the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the IKEA Foundation and the JPB Foundation.