Nacogdoches, TX – Four people locked themselves to heavy machinery used along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route this morning. They were joined by several others forming a human chain to block the movement of heavy machinery onsite, while more than 30 people walked onto the same construction site to halt work early this morning. Meanwhile, three others launched a new tree blockade at a crossing of the Angelina River, suspending themselves from 50 foot pine trees with life lines anchored to heavy machinery, effectively blocking the entirety of Keystone XL's path. Today's Day of Action is in solidarity with local landowners struggling to protect their water and land from TransCanada's toxic tar sands pipeline.
Keystone XL would cross 16 large rivers in Texas, including the site of today's latest tree blockade, the scenic Angelina River. Nestled amongst 50 foot pine trees in forested bottomlands, the tree blockaders have settled in for a long standoff in protection of their fresh drinking and agricultural water. The waters downstream feed into the popular Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the largest lake entirely within the state of Texas, renowned for its angling opportunities and competitions.
“Tar Sands Blockade stands with all communities affected by the Canadian tar sands," insisted Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson. "From indigenous nations in Alberta, Canada to the besieged refinery neighborhoods of the American Gulf Coast where the tar sands will be refined, there's a groundswell of resistance demanding an end to toxic tar sands exploitation. Today's events simply mark the latest in our sustained, community-based civil disobedience campaign, and many more communities are destined to rise up to defend their homes from TransCanada's fraud, bullying, and reckless endangerment of their lives and fresh water."
Included amongst the Angelina tree sitters is local Stephen F. Austin State University student, Lizzy Alvarado, 21, an Austin-born, third-year cinematography major. Leading outdoor excursions for other local youth and having helped found the Nacogdoches Rat Skulls, an all female cycling-advocacy organization, Alvarado is an active member of the Nacogdoches community.
“I climbed this tree in honor of all the landowners who have been bullied mercilessly into signing easement contracts and who were then silenced through fear by TransCanada's threat of endless litigation. That’s not what this country stands for in my mind, and if we don’t take a stand here to secure our rights now, then it will keep happening to everyone,” proclaimed Alvarado. “What’s happening isn’t just threatening my community's drinking water but it will threaten that of all communities along the pipeline's path.“
While these multi-site actions halted Keystone XL construction this morning, local community members rallied at Lake Nacogdoches to further highlight the threats Keystone XL poses to the community's watershed and public health. These events around the Nacogdoches area coincide with a week's worth of events in solidarity with Tar Sands Blockade. Scheduled to occur in over 40 communities around the world, these actions highlight the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
Some actions have targeted policy makers or financial institutions bankrolling dirty energy projects while others rallied to address the damage done by Hurricane Sandy through community organizing and connecting extreme weather to extreme extraction. Yesterday in Washington, DC, more than 3,000 gathered at the White House to call on President Obama to reject the permit for the northern segment of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. Other actions are scheduled to happen today and later this week.
Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
“From the Sandy-decimate streets of New York City to these piney woods here in East Texas, communities are resisting dangerous corporations like TransCanada. These solidarity actions are part of a burgeoning movement of ordinary folks coming together in their neighborhoods, schools, and community centers to draw the connections between extreme extraction like tar sands exploitation and extreme weather like the droughts devastating farmers and ranchers all over Texas and the Midwest. Today we rally to build a future where all people and the planet are healthy and thriving,” said Kim Huynh, a spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade.