Native rights activists and environmentalists cheered the recent – and likely temporary – win for the Standing Rock Water Protectors in their peaceful resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. But “black snakes,” as the activists called DAPL, are a growing threat in many places throughout North America, and the battles to defeat them are multiplying.
One recently established protest based on the Standing Rock model has coalesced to oppose the ongoing work on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in the Big Bend region of southwest Texas. The 142-mile-long pipeline, if completed, would bring fracked gas from Fort Stockton in Pecos County to the small border city of Presidio, where it would continue on into northern Mexico. In the process it would cross under the Rio Grande, the main water source for the fragile and drought-ridden region.
Besides land seizures driven by eminent domain, Trans-Pecos will also likely damage many archaeological sites and places sacred to indigenous populations along its route, who include, but are not limited to, the Jumano, Apache and Conchos peoples.
Standing with Two Rivers
Although most news reports have so far focused on Two Rivers Camp, located on private land close to the towns of Marfa and Alpine, others including the Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin camps have sprung up in several counties in and around the area to join the non-violent civil disobedience, protest and prayer actions.
Asked about the history and the organizations involved in the growing resistance to Trans-Pecos, Blue Horse explained:
“The first group was the Big Bend Defense Coalition, they’ve been fighting the pipeline for some time now. They’d asked the Society of Native Nations, who are an indigenous group down here in Texas, to come down and help, especially after what happened with Standing Rock. They agreed, and it seemed like the best thing to do was to open a camp, and from there we’ve been in touch with some of the people at Standing Rock looking for guidance and they’ve also been a great help.”
Responding to the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing, already ongoing, which will provide the natural gas to be pumped through Trans-Pecos, Yolanda Blue Horse stated that this could make the pipeline even more environmentally destructive than DAPL – long before it is even built. Besides the risk if a pipeline rupture occurs in or near the Rio Grande, “water is scarce before the fracking begins, and when they get done with that, they have all this contaminated water they’re going to dump back into the ground,” she said.
Blue Horse also noted that under Texas’s recently passed House Bill 40, which prohibits cities and towns in the state from banning fracking, “Even if they find a huge pocket of gas in your backyard and you have property down here in Texas, you can’t say anything because they have the right to pull it out and contaminate your water in the process. How’s that for democracy?”
It also appears that the dangers associated with a pipeline spill will continue long after the Permian Basin, where the majority of the fracking is taking place, is tapped. Lori Glover, a member of the Big Bend Defense Coalition who was arrested during direct actions at a construction site near Alpine, in early December, said Mexico itself has large, untouched shale resources. When these are developed, “companies like Energy Transfer Parters could profit from transporting natural gas back up the Trans-Pecos Pipeline to the U.S. once our resources are no longer profitable enough to extract.”
Two more Water Protectors from the Two Rivers Camp – one associated with the Big Bend Defense Coalition and another with the Society of Native Nations – were arrested on Jan. 7 after they chained themselves to equipment at an Energy Transfer Partners easement and work site in Presidio County. This resulted in a temporary work stoppage until the protesters were removed by authorities.
The actions, along with arrests, will likely continue in the coming weeks and months as the Two Rivers and other camps grow in size and attract more supporters. While Two Rivers Camp organizers say they are already becoming sustainable through the efforts of those involved, they are welcoming donations and assistance for everything ranging from kitchen items and medical supplies to legal defense.