From Green Right Now Reports

A Tar Sands Blockade tree house.

Tree sitters have brought West Coast-style civil disobedience to the heart of the Lone Star state.

Starting bright and early Monday, and continuing today, eight people have perched in tree houses in a so far successful attempt to thwart the progress of the Keystone XL pipeline through Texas.

Today, the group received assistance from two protesters who chained themselves to tree-clearing machinery, providing another barrier to work crews trying to clear a wooded area for the transcontinental pipeline.

The tree sitters, encamped in the piney woods just outside of Winnsboro in East Texas, are part of the Tar Sands Blockade, a climate justice group that hopes to slow or stop progress on the pipeline’s southern leg, from Cushing, Okla., to refineries in the Houston area.

A banner announcing the Tar Sands Blockade "tree village".

Composed of environmental activists and landowners angry over the loss of land for pipeline rights of ways, Tar Sands Blockade has been challenging work crews  throughout August, mainly in East Texas.

In a news statement, Tar Sands Blockade promised the tree sitters would be safe “as long as TransCanada does not attempt to continue clear-cutting the trees.

“These ardent advocates of landowner’s rights and climate justice have the safety equipment and food supplies to last indefinitely,” the group reported.

The statement also quoted tree occupant Mary Washington:

“Today [Monday] I climbed a tree in the path of Keystone XL to demand TransCanada stop construction of this dirty and dangerous pipeline. This pipeline is a disaster for everyone it touches, from the cancer tar sands extraction is causing indigenous communities, to the water poisoned by inevitable tar sands spills, to the landowners whose land has been seized, and to everyone that will be affected by climate change,” said Mary Washington, one of the Tar Sands Blockade members sitting in a tree.”

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have staged actions against the project at the White House, in Nebraska and at various points along the 1,700-mile proposed route.

The pipeline, operated by TransCanada, is slated to carry diluted tar sands oil, called bitumen, from the tar sands mines in Alberta to refineries and shipping points in the Houston area.

Environmentalists oppose Keystone XL because tar sands release carbon emissions throughout its The Keystone XL, from extraction through the burning of the refined oil. They also fault the process for consuming fresh water and creating toxic lakes of residues and tailings unearthed during the mining.

The loss of forests in the vast area where tar sands are mined in Canada is another concern.

Two protesters from Texas, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, locked themselves to a tree crushing machine today.

Tar Sands Blockade quoted environmentalist and tar sands opponent Bill McKibben on the loss of forest in Texas as well. “Climate change killed half a billion trees in Texas last year–and if TransCanada cuts these down, then the dirty tar sands they send down the pipeline will trigger yet more out-of-control warming,” McKibben said.

The Obama Administration delayed final approval for full Keystone XL last year when Nebraskans organized against it because they felt the route jeopardized the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada had planned to build the pipeline through a delicate ecosystem known as the Sand Hills, where the aquifer is close to the surface.

Ranchers, farmers and environmentalists in Nebraska organized against the pipeline and won a re-routing. The entire project now awaits final approval from the State Department, to authorized its crossing international borders, but the portion from Cushing to Houston, which can be used for domestic tar sands, got the go-ahead earlier this year from the Obama Administration.

“Today’s bold action by these eight brave people demonstrates their resolve to stop this dirty and dangerous pipeline. They understand the severity of the threat and that taking action is less risky than doing nothing,” said Ron Seifert, a spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade.

The blockade members, who trained for civil disobedience this summer, are concerned both about land rights and the threat to climate from the tar sands oil.