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Texas Activists Move Toward Tar Sands Blockade

Texas climate justice activists are prepared to use nonviolent, direct action to block the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction.

Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin locked themselves to construction equipment nearly 300 yards away from a tree village blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Part of the Series

The deadline for the review of TransCanada’s permits for the Gulf Coast portion of the Keystone XL pipeline was Monday, June 25, at the Texas Army Corp of Engineers Galveston office, and without any finalization of review, those permits will be automatically granted to the corporation — thanks to President Obama’s announcement that he would expedite the southern leg of the pipeline in Cushing, Oklahoma, back in March.

That’s why Texas climate justice activists, including myself, are officially announcing the Tar Sands Blockade, an epic action that we have been organizing since the beginning of the year. We’re mostly associated with Rising Tide North Texas, and we’re 100 percent prepared to use nonviolent, direct action to block the pipeline’s construction to protect our home.

Bring it, TransCanada.

The Tar Sands Blockade will be coordinating nonviolent, direct actions along the pipeline route to stop this zombie pipeline once and for all. We are working with national allies as well as local communities to coordinate a road show that will travel throughout Texas and Oklahoma as well as a regional training effort for activists interested in getting involved in the blockade movement against the Keystone XL.

“Our action is giving a new meaning to ‘Don’t Mess with Texas,'” said Tar Sands Blockade Collective member Benjamin Kessler. Kessler is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The permits for the pipeline’s construction are being automatically granted under the Nationwide Permit 12 protocol, or NWP 12. The permits do not need an environmental impact statement to accompany them, according to this process. That very fact alone endangers more than 631 streams and wetlands that the pipeline will cross in our state. Not only that, but the entire Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies drinking water for 10 to 12 million homes across 60 counties in East Texas along the pipeline’s path, is threatened with contamination.

The Keystone XL remains key to the expansion of the Alberta, Canada, tar sands and leading National Aeronautics and Space Administration climate scientist James Hansen has called the pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” According to Hansen, if the carbon stored in the tar sands is released into the atmosphere, it would mean “game over for the climate.” founder Bill McKibben has worked hard to get Hansen’s message out to the public and to lawmakers in Washington. After more than 1,200 were arrested during the onset of the Tar Sands Action last fall, another 12,000 turned out to surround the White House to tell President Obama that the Keystone XL is not in the nation’s best interest.

McKibben was elated to hear that the Tar Sands Blockade is continuing to foster the spirit of resistance against the pipeline in the South with the use of nonviolent, direct action.

“Let’s be clear what the drama is here: human bodies and spirits up against the unlimited cash and political influence of the fossil fuel industry. We all should be grateful for this peaceful witness,” McKibben said.

Landowners living along the pipeline’s path say they have been intimidated by TransCanada to sign away the rights to their land, and it’s not just landowners that will lose. The pipeline is expected to destroy Indigenous archeological and historical sites — including grave sites — in Oklahoma and Texas.

Conservative and liberal Texans alike, from Tea Partiers to Republicans, Independents, Democrats and Occupiers all understand that this pipeline isn’t good for Texas. That’s why we’re banding together to stop it.

The impacts of climate change have become devastatingly clear in Texas, where hundreds of wildfires have broken out and caused billions of dollars in damage, eating up habitats belonging to both humans and animals, but TransCanada wants to use up what little water we have left to process one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet, only steepening the effects of warming in our state.

In Alberta, the extraction of one barrel of tar sands crude already takes about four to five barrels of water. In Texas, TransCanada wants to divert and use 86 million gallons of water from surface bodies in Texas for hydrostatic testing and dust control. That’s vital water we need as we’re still under drought conditions.

The tar sands crude has be diluted with what are some known carcinogens and other chemicals that haven’t been disclosed, under extremely high temperatures and pressures to be moved through the pipeline. Those chemicals threaten our wetlands, lakes, rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.

“The pipeline will make TransCanada rich while encroaching on ranch land, poisoning Texas’s working-class communities and destroying the environment that makes the Lone Star State so beautiful,” said Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert.

The pipeline will carry tar sands from Alberta to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, for export on the global market to the highest bidder. Texas families living along the pipeline route will be devastated and reap none of the profits.

That’s why we’re calling on all communities affected by tar sands and the Keystone XL to join us and break Big Oil’s grip on our region. We’ll be risking arrest in a sustained, nonviolent direct action that forces them to recognize the demands of the people.

We don’t make the decision lightly. The fact is, other tactics — like lobbying, petitioning and packing public hearings — have failed to halt the pipeline. State authorities have bent to every whim of TransCanada and they show no signs of stopping now.

That’s why we have to use the power of direct action to draw the line at tar sands. We’re standing strong in the South and telling the rest of the world we’re not ready to start digging out the nasty tar sands at the bottom of the oil barrel.

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