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Don’t Mess with Texas’ Tar Sands Blockade

Will Wooten
Waging Nonviolence / News Report
Published: Thursday 16 August 2012
That solidarity will take on greater meaning in a matter of days when construction on the pipeline is expected to begin and landowners will be bringing ice to the encampments to help alleviate the extreme Texas heat, as well as thanking everyone for defending the home they’ve built over decades.
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One year after more than 1,200 people were arrested in front of the White House during two weeks of sit-ins against the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, a coalition of Texas landowners and activists will attempt to physically halt its construction. Led by veteran climate justice organizers, participants ranging from environmentalists to Tea Partiers are preparing to lock arms for a sustained nonviolent civil disobedience campaign, beginning perhaps as early as this week.

The impetus for such action, which is being called the Tar Sands Blockade, goes back much further than last summer, however. In 2008 and 2009, small landowners along the pipeline’s route in rural Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska started noticing survey stakes with orange tape marked “KXL.” They soon found out that TransCanada — the company building the pipeline — had eminent domain power over their property and that if they didn’t sign a contract allowing TransCanada to build, they would be taken to court.

Many landowners, feeling pushed into an impossible situation, signed the contracts. Some began organizing, doing community outreach to explain what was happening and building conservative support on the ground. Organizations such as Nacogdoches Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines evolved out of conversations between landowners — first focusing around eminent domain, but then, when they learned that tar sands oil would be pumped through the pipeline, discussion started to include environmental impacts, such as toxic diluted bitumen and climate change.

By August 2011, the climate movement in the United States started to focus in on the Keystone XL with Tar Sands Action, a civil disobedience campaign led by Bill McKibben and members of The 1,253 arrests in front of the White Househelped raise the issue to a national level by stressing that President Obama could stop the pipeline by rejecting its permit to cross the U.S.–Canada border.

Weeks later, the Occupy movement emerged. While environmental issues were not at the forefront, many Occupy encampments passed resolutions opposing Keystone XL and took part in Tar Sands Action’s next rally in Washington, D.C., when, on November 6, 12,000 people encircled the White House. Days later President Obama denied the permit and, for the moment, Keystone XL was thought dead.

TransCanada then changed tactics and decided to split the pipeline into segments so that it could get a head start on construction while making inside deals in Washington to secure the necessary permit for crossing the border. In a sign of goodwill to the fossil fuel industry, President Obama went to Cushing, Oklahoma, and declared that he would “expedite” the permitting process for the Gulf Coast segment from Cushing to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. While that ability was technically outside of his reach, it was a hint to the agencies responsible for such decisions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Army Corps of Engineers then granted the three permits TransCanada needed to start construction — despite the absence of an environmental review.

The southern segment of the Keystone XL will be built in three different sections, simultaneously, with the goal of transporting tar sands oil currently stored in Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries on the Gulf Coast, where it then can be shipped around the world. When Texas activists such as myself learned that this was happening despite the Tar Sands Action victory, we decided to form Tar Sands Blockade.

While landowners began organizing along the pipeline route in early 2012, climate justice activists with Rising Tide North Texas were looking for ways to bring wider attention to the pipeline’s impending construction. Many of us had been active Occupiers during the encampments and were disappointed with the movement’s inability to make the connection between economic justice and the climate. So we made a stronger effort to engage people on the community level.

As a result, Tar Sands Blockade is being informed by a variety of voices — from self-identified Tea Party members, flying Gadsden flags at the front of their long driveways, to Occupiers who slept at encampments across the country.

Several organizers with Tar Sands Blockade also participated in and organized for Tar Sands Action, including veteran climate justice activists from around the country. This diverse coalition has agreed on one simple call to action: The Keystone XL should not be built in Texas, and nonviolent direct action is required to stop it.

Other means of addressing the grievances of landowners and meeting the challenge of climate change have thus far failed. As Bill McKibben’s recent article “Global Warming’s Terrible New Math” made clear, the world has years, not decades, to confront the fossil fuel industry head on. Nonviolent direct action offers the best chance of victory, not just for the Tar Sands Blockade but for other fossil fuel extraction movements, such as those opposing fracking, mountaintop removal and coal exports — all of which have been active in what’s being called a Climate Summer of Solidarity.

That solidarity will take on greater meaning in a matter of days when construction on the pipeline is expected to begin and landowners will be bringing ice to the encampments to help alleviate the extreme Texas heat, as well as thanking everyone for defending the home they’ve built over decades. Activists will respond by holding the blockade for as long as possible, through the summer and likely into the fall. This could be an important moment for the entire climate movement, setting the stage for future actions and alliances — not to mention giving new meaning to the words “Don’t mess with Texas.”

ABOUT Will Wooten

Will Wooten is an activist with Occupy Denton, organizing with the Tar Sands Blockade Media Working Group. He is also a freelance writer focusing on labor and climate justice. Formerly he was an organizer for the Alliance for Climate Protection and several Democratic Party electoral campaigns.

Just want you to know, Texan

Just want you to know, Texan Blockaders, that many of us here in Scotland support your action. We are all connected, as the First Nation Elders tell us: the time of separation is over. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Bless us all and may we win this fight for our children and our dear Mother Earth.

Wait a minute... I thought

Wait a minute... I thought that the tea partiers were all for drill baby drill... Why would they be holding hands with environmentalists? Maybe because the pipeline is ok as long as its not in their backyard?

As a Canadian, I want to make

As a Canadian, I want to make it perfectly clear we
plan to fight like hell to keep the pipelines out of British Columbia. Friends and others I know have no hesitation to get counted and arrested for the cause.
The ONLY acceptable solution is producing REFINED products from their source and leak proof rail transportation technologies.
Pipelines are a carryover from the last Millenium designed to make the uber-rich even richer...they're being CHEAP and would cost a hell of a lot less to develop and buy sustainable technologies instead of politicians, who aren't sustainable at all.
So NO, we're not selling out our children's futures.



To start with, the six states through which the Keystone-XL pipeline is planned, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, have all given TransCanada the power of eminent domain! Some of the states have a modicum of private protection, but in Texas, if TransCanada wants your land, it's theirs.

They have given a foreign private company... transporting foreign private goods... to be exported to foreign markets... through U.S. territory... the power to take private U.S. land!! And our courts will probably bow down and not consider this an "unreasonable seizure", as prohibited by our constitution.

It's more than outrageous. It's thievery by TransCanada and the politicians and courts who bent to money.

Just some facts on the pipeline

"What's the advantage of sending Canadian crude to refineries way down in Port Arthur, Texas? Aha - because it's a port, and duty free (no export taxes). What the pushers of Keystone want to keep secret from you and me is that this oil will not be made into gasoline for our vehicles. Most of it will be refined into diesel and jet fuel and exported to Europe, China, and Latin America. The claim that the pipeline will reduce our reliance on OPEC is an outright lie."

It will provide only a few hundred temporary construction jobs, and a few dozen maintenance/monitoring jobs.

Why not run it straight west through all that unspoiled Canadian wilderness to the coast? It couldn't be that they're afraid of a spill, could it? Or, maybe just tearing through the unspoiled tundra into the biggest salmon fishery on the coast might offend someone (not be politically survivable). The Canadian government itself has delayed any approval of a pipeline on Canadian soil for over a year. Environmental and property ownership factors are a major concern for them, as they should be for us.

The Keystone XL pipeline would be an enormous physical structure, spanning almost two thousand miles, requiring special engineering almost every few yards of the way as it crosses mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, farmland, transmission lines and roads. It will have numerous pumping stations and "should" have a sophisticated electronic monitoring and control system, which itself would be subject to multiple failures.

There will be "several" spills/year. As an engineer, I can tell you that such a structure cannot be built to be spill proof, and there is a statistical certainty that it cannot operate flawlessly. It follows there is a statistical certainty of spills. Trans Canada itself "guessed" it would suffer a spill every seven years...but their own pipeline experience is a dozen spills in a year.

After it's useful life, the structure bisecting the United States will remain as an enormous, silent, ugly monument to corporate greed and political corruption.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is probably the single most environmentally destructive project in North America threatening millions of trees and thousands of miles of rivers, lakes and streams as it snakes its way across the nation’s heartland." This is not an idle concern.

A little looking on the Internet about the pipeline shows the only real beneficiaries would be the oil companies, and state governments that will receive some transit tax, at great cost to the public well being.

The pipeline is a political boondoggle at the behest of big oil. Altogether, the company paid $1.33 million on lobbying (read bribes) in D.C. last year. Senators voting for the pipeline have received $27,552,302 from fossil fuel industries, on average, 3 times more than those voting against it. John Boehner (R-Ohio) had “folks from Keystone management as his guests at the State of the Union speech.

The fact that the payroll tax cut for American families had been held hostage to this environmental train wreck is unbelievable. And now the thieving crooked Republicans in D.C. are holding a critical transportation bill hostage to the approval of this farce. This whole deal is just rotten from the tar sands to the stinking refineries in Texas, that have already ruined our air, and all so that the pathetically clueless fundamentalists morons can "win one".

"Dr. James Hansen reiterated the case against tar sands in the New York Times last week, pointing out that the deposits contain "twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history." If we burn them on top of all the coal and oil and gas we're already using, "concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era" - a wildly different and likely unlivable earth. "

Just as a footnote, the biggest U.S. export last year was...fuel! Think about that until you come up with a clue about why oil interests want the pipeline.

God bless you from BC. We're

God bless you from BC. We're fighting our own battle to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to export the same unrefined dilbit across our province to supertankers through our treacherous Coastal fijords and islands where the sea life under and above ground is as magnificent as the ancient rain forests. The pipeline crosses salmon rivers and sacred headwaters, the Rocky Mountains and several First Nations' lands.

Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his Conservative Party government is determined to see it built, whatever economic or physical harm it does to people or environment. The British Columbia provincial election will be in February, and since the NDP (democratic socialist) party should win, after being in opposition for a while, our strong protests, and poor public opinion from all parts of society may succeed. Albertans, for the most part, however, support the pipeline, I think. It's known as the Texas of Canada, as far as religion, oil, and politics go.

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