From Green Right Now Reports
Landowners and activists have again forced a temporary work stoppage on the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.
This morning three members of the Tar Sands Blockade group latched themselves to tree-clearing machinery near Saltillo, stopping work crews from creating the path for the transcontinental pipeline.
It was not immediately known if police had been called to the scene, as they were to a similar scene of civil disobedience by the group in late August.
The controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil mixed with chemicals from the tar sands mining fields in Alberta to refineries in Texas. A portion of the 1,700 pipeline route, through Nebraska, is being re-routed after concerns about environmental impacts, but construction of the leg from Cushing, Okla, to the Texas coast was given the go-ahead earlier this year.
Protesters object to the pipeline on two main grounds, that tar sands are environmentally destructive and could spread toxics if the pipeline leaks as similar pipelines have, and that landowners have been forced to grant pipeline easements through an unfair condemnation process.
“We have exhausted all of the traditional avenues, and it’s not enough. It’s unjust that a multinational company can seize people’s property by proclaiming themselves a “common carrier” – that’s eminent domain abuse. It’s theft, and these peoples’ homes and land shouldn’t be ruined while decisions on what to do are put off,” said Gary Lynn Stuard, 54, of Dallas, in a statement.
Stuard was one of the protesters at the early morning display of civil disobedience, one of many the group has vowed to organize in an effort to slow the pipeline’s progress.
Utilities often condemn land to convey public goods, like oil and gas. But Tar Sands Blockade members say this case is different because a foreign company, pipeline owner TransCanada, has claimed land rights in Texas, without redress for landowners and without any assurance that the oil will be available to Americans.
TransCanada spokespersons have said the pipeline will be safe, and is necessary to transport tar sands oil from Canada, which has the world’s largest stores of tar sands oil.
Many environmentalists oppose the pipeline because it facilitates using tar sands oil, which is more difficult to extract than standard crude, requiring that large swaths of forest be cleared to access the tarry oil beneath the surface. The process is more energy intensive and takes a toll on land, water and wildlife that many environmental groups oppose. Experts speaking for these groups have said tar sands oil creates twice the carbon emissions, from extraction through end use, as conventional oil.
Environmentalist James E. Hansen has famously said that using all the tar sands in Canada would be “game over” for the planet.
350.org led protests at the White House in 2011 to try to stop the U.S. involvement in tar sands, and joined with Nebraskans opposed to the pipeline. That coalition won a new federal review of the Nebraska portion of the pipeline, which had been slated to run through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region where the Ogallala Aquifer is near the surface.
Many in Congress, however, were not happy with the Obama Administration’s decision to re-consider and possibly re-route the Midwest leg of the pipeline. Many members of the Republican caucus said the pipeline was needed immediately to bring oil to the U.S. from an allied nation. Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, who’d expressed concerns about the Sand Hills route, quickly signed state laws to re-route the pipeline.
Whether the oil carried in the pipeline will be used in the U.S., however, has been hotly disputed. Environmentalists have argued that the pipeline’s destination at Houston-area ports suggests it will be sold on the global market.
Technically, the Keystone XL does not have final approval until the U.S. State Department gives the company a green light to cross the international border at Montana and Alberta.