Keystone XL Protests Rage On in East Texas

In early October, I met a group of environmental activists who were camping in trees 80 feet above the ground near Winnsboro, hoping to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction in East Texas. Keystone XL would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas and, in the protestors’ view, unleash massive environmental destruction.  Local landowners have joined in protesting against TransCanada, the corporation building the pipeline. TransCanada has angered landowners by seizing land in the pipeline’s path.

Two months later, the battle over Keystone XL rages on. Construction began on the southern portion of the pipeline in August, drawing a fresh round of protests. But U.S. State Department approval is needed to complete construction across the international border.

President Obama rejected TransCanada’s initial application for the permit last January, but expedited the permitting process for the pipeline’s southern leg. TransCanada reapplied for the cross-border permit and a bipartisan group of 18 senators wrote a letter urging the president to support the project.

Two weeks after Obama won re-election, the environmental group organized a protest outside the White House with a crowd of 3,000. Protesters in Texas barricaded themselves inside section of pipeline that was ready to be buried in Winona last week. In the Houston neighborhood of Manchester, environmental activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey locked their necks to tanker trucks in front of a Valero refinery they say will be a destination for tar sands oil in Texas. The two have launched a hunger strike that has now lasted 11 days.

New efforts to block the pipeline have popped up in court, too. Michael Bishop, a landowner from Nacogdoches County, sued the Texas Railroad Commission last week, complaining the agency has neglected its obligation to protect the environment when considering pipeline permits and that it failed to investigate what TransCanada intends to transport through the pipeline. Bishop, who is representing himself, is seeking an injunction to suspend TransCanada’s permit to build the pipeline. … FULL STORY