Nine protesters from the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance were arrested this morning, after at least eight members of the group locked themselves to construction equipment and a construction trailer at the site of a pump station being built in Seminole, OK, to service the Keystone XL pipeline.
The protesters locked themselves onto the equipment about dawn, a technique that’s been used by opponents of pipeline in Texas over the past nine months to try to slow construction of the controversial pipeline and express their concerns that the tar sands extraction is too environmentally costly to continue.
Within an hour, volunteer firefighters were sent in to unlock the protesters, using various tools, such as the Jaws of Life, protesters said.
Nine were arrested for trespassing and one veteran protester may have been injured in the scuffle. He was reportedly being treated in an ambulance at the site, protesters said.
The Great Plains group and another activist organization, Tar Sands Blockade, have staged several similar actions along the pipeline route, with has been cleared for construction on the southern leg through Oklahoma and Texas, but not through the Midwest. The groups, which include landowners whose property has been accessed for the pipeline, say the tar sands project risks too much ecological damage to be allowed to continue.
The pipeline, being constructed by TransCanada, is set to run 1,700 miles from tar sands fields in Alberta across the U.S. to refineries in the Houston region. It has not yet received a permit to cross the border from Canada, a contingency that requires U.S. State Department approval.
Actions against the pipeline are necessary to try to stop the damage it could bring to Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, “an area that has been historically sacrificed for the benefit of petroleum infrastructure and industry,” said Eric Whelan, a spokesman for Great Plains Resistance.
“In this country, over half of all pipeline spills happen in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Looking at the mainstream keystone opposition, this fact is invisible—just like the communities affected by toxic refining and toxic extraction,” he said. “We’re through with appealing to a broken political system that has consistently sacrificed human and nonhuman communities for the benefit of industry and capital.”
According to the GPTSR, the Tar Sands “megaproject” will spread or threaten pollution in many areas across North America, including:
- In Alberta, tar sands operations are destroying pristine boreal forests, which if fully realized, will leave behind a toxic wasteland the size of Florida. After the sticky oil sands are strip mined, they are diluted (converted to a thick mix of oil sands and chemicals called bitumen) and shipped out for further refining, in Oklahoma and Texas, before being sold on the world market.
- In Western Canada, where First Nations communities that live nearby the tar sands mines are left with poisoned waterways.
- In the American heartland, where tar sands spills, like the one at Mayflower, AR (under contract to Exxon not TransCanada), could damage farmland, communities and aquifers.
- Lands belonging to the Sioux Nation in South Dakota, which will be traversed by the intercontinental pipeline.
- Communities like Manchester, TX, in the Houston ship channel region, where residents already suffer respiratory ailments from industrial pollution related to ship channel activities.
“Tar sands infrastructure is toxic regardless of the corporation or pipeline. For that reason we are opposed not only to the Keystone XL, but all tar sands infrastructure that threatens the land and her progeny,” said Fitzgerald Scott, in a statement. Scott, who was arrested in April at a protest along the Keystone XL easement, and locked himself to an excavator today.
Monday’s action is part of a nationwide week of coordinated “anti-extraction action” under the banner of “Fearless Summer,” according to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance.