BREAKING: Pipeline Construction Begins, with Protests, in Texas

Search form

BREAKING: Pipeline Construction Begins, with Protests, in Texas

BREAKING: Pipeline Construction Begins, with Protests, in Texas
Thu, 8/16/2012 - by Candice Bernd

Photo: Candice Bernd

Blockaders braved a wall of bulldozers early Thursday morning and unfurled banners that warned TransCanada to expect resistance the size of Texas if the company proceeds with construction of a pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands through the region as part of Keystone XL’s hastily rebranded “Gulf Coast Project.”

TransCanada broke ground last week on the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, bucking more than four years of intense opposition to the project from farmers, ranchers and local communities representing thousands of people affected across Texas and Oklahoma.

There was no official ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate construction at the pipeline’s staging area last week—in fact, TransCanada’s careful PR control and political pressures led to a virtual media blackout on the subject.

Instead, members of the Tar Sands Blockade a broad affiliation of activists opposing the project, traveled Thursday seven miles west of Paris, Texas, to christen the construction site in their own way: with a day of defiance, and the promise of rolling actions for as long as the pipeline plan proceeds.

“TransCanada is putting families that wanted nothing to do with this pipeline in harm’s way,” says blockade organizer Ron Seifert. “Since our leaders and representatives will do nothing to protect our friends and neighbors, the Tar Sands Blockade is calling for people everywhere to join us and defend our local communities from a multinational bully.”

Plans to integrate the proposed Gulf Coast Segment with the existing Keystone System would allow extractors in Canada to send a toxic tar sands slurry to the export market on the Gulf Coast. Creating minimal short-term construction jobs, the expansion of the oil industry will pad the pockets of Gulf Coast refineries—which operate in a foreign trade zone that evades state and federal taxes—while endangering the health and livelihoods of hundreds of communities between Cushing, Okla., and Port Arthur, Tex.

TransCanada’s desperate reshuffling of the project, re-routing the pipeline through Oklahoma rather than much-contested Nebraska, came after 1,253 people were arrested in Washington, DC, last fall. The sustained protests at the White House, including another demonstration in November in which more than 12,000 encircled the White House, pushed President Obama to reject the permit for the $7 billion Keystone expansion, stating that not enough time had been given for a proper environmental review.

But in March, the president traveled to Cushing, Okla., where he announced plans to expedite the pipeline’s southern portion as part of his “all of the above” energy strategy—leaving landowners, ranchers, indigenous communities and thousands of local citizens in the shadow of the refineries, with the deadly pollution they imply.

“I am told the pipeline is so we won't have to buy ‘blood oil,’” says Cherokee activist and Grand River Keeper Earl Hatley, who is co-founder of Clean Energy Future Oklahoma. “The pollution killing First Nations peoples [in Canada] and destruction of their culture by greedy multi-national oil barons is akin to the long ago practice of providing small pox blankets to our people here in America.

“We native peoples who fight the destruction of the great Boreal Forest for our relatives in Alberta call tar sands blood oil," he says.

Events on Thursday were also staged in Dallas and Houston, where protestors standing in solidarity with rural landowners say TransCanada bullied and manipulated residents across the state, forcing the pipeline’s construction through the use of eminent domain—a legal maneuver that allows corporations to seize private citizens’ property without their consent.

“TransCanada lied to me from day one,” says Susan Scott, a landowner in East Texas whose property will be condemned. “I worked 37 years for my farm, and TransCanada believes it is entitled to a piece of my home.”

While many landowners along the pipeline route in Texas said they signed easement agreements with TransCanada out of fear of being sued, another landowner, Julia Trigg Crawford, is still holding out. Her case went to court in Paris on Friday, with a ruling to be issued shortly.

Cases like Crawford’s display the immense legal power and strategies employed by multinational corporations in the fossil fuel industry, whose arguments for eminent domain enable them to continue profiting from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels at the expense of local communities and the climate.

"In the midst of record heat and drought, this just adds insult to injury," says 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has led the fight against the Keystone pipeline since last year. July was the hottest month ever recorded in the U.S., bringing with it drought conditions that now threaten more than half the nation. "More risk, more carbon, more heat,” adds McKibben, “all the things farmers and ranchers don't need."

The Tar Sands Blockade is part of a burgeoning direct action movement against fossil fuel extraction—coined as the “Summer of Solidarity”—now taking shape across the nation. This week in Montana, residents occupied the state capitol in Helena to begin eight days of civil disobedience as part of the Coal Export Action aimed at halting mining operations at Otter Creek and shipments of coal westward to Asian markets from the Powder River Basin.

Over the summer, other direct actions have focused on stopping mountaintop coal removal, or strip mining, in West Virginia; barring fracking operations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York; and enacting a “human oil spill” in Vermont to protest a proposed Tar Sands pipeline and other polluting energy projects slated to be built through the heart of New England.

And so, in the Lone Star State, it too begins. The board is set and the pieces are moving.

Article Tabs

There’s no way policymakers can adequately address inequality in the United States overall without recognizing the effects of the racial wealth gap.

There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism.

Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost $1 billion each – and even run-of-the-mill portfolio managers at large hedge funds averaged $2.2 million each.

New Scottish media platforms are thriving as the region's eclectic, creative, evolving, non-corporate and critical news landscape looks to grow even further into a media challenging the status qu

Jeff Clements, money in politics, Powell Memo, Corporations Are Not People, Citizens United, Free Speech for People

After Citizens United, says Jeff Clements, “I felt that I couldn't just leave it at that, that democracy is really on the line, that the country is on the line – I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that humanity is on the line.”

There’s never been a better time to organize a general strike in the U.S. than right now, with both corporate owners and political leaders pillaging public resources for their own private gain.

Posted 4 days 14 hours ago

Now rolling into to its fourth month, the video game consumer movement known as #GamerGate continues to evolve in scope and focus as it seeks to advocate for greater ethical standards in gaming journalism.

Posted 5 days 10 hours ago

New Scottish media platforms are thriving as the region's eclectic, creative, evolving, non-corporate and critical news landscape looks to grow even further into a media challenging the status qu

Posted 2 days 13 hours ago

The provision was literally written by Citigroup executives.

Posted 4 days 14 hours ago
Jeff Clements, money in politics, Powell Memo, Corporations Are Not People, Citizens United, Free Speech for People

After Citizens United, says Jeff Clements, “I felt that I couldn't just leave it at that, that democracy is really on the line, that the country is on the line – I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that humanity is on the line.”

Posted 2 days 14 hours ago

Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost $1 billion each – and even run-of-the-mill portfolio managers at large hedge funds averaged $2.2 million each.

The crooked math that's going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren't changed.

Dozens of land conservation bills, which were added to a defense spending bill approved on Friday, protect more than 1 million acres of national parks, wilderness areas, and wild and scenic rivers.

Struggling homeowners are in desperate need of some new rules for the mortgage modification “Three Card Monty” shuffle.

Sign Up